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Learn about Moses Dickson


Moses Dickson was an abolitionist, soldier, minister, and founder of The Knights of Liberty, which planned a slave uprising in the United States and helped African American slaves to freedom. He also founded the Black self-help organization and co-founded Lincoln University of Missouri.


Moses Dickson was born free in Cincinnati, one of nine children. At age sixteen, he toured the South, working as a steamship barber. His travels landed him in St. Louis, where Dickson began his work to abolish slavery.


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Moses Dickson
Moses Dickson was an abolitionist, soldier, minister, and founder of The Knights of Liberty.

In 1846, Dickson and eleven othersought to end slavery in the United States. They formed a secret organization, The Knights of Libertywhich planned a national insurrection against slavery. The men swore secrecy: “I can die, but I cannot reveal the name of any member until the slaves are free.”


Twelve men grew into a resistance network in ten years, including 42,000 men across the South. Dickson postponed the uprising because the country was on the brink of the Civil War, and she believed “a higher power” was at work. 


The Knights of Liberty network was later used in the Underground Railroad, and a smaller secret organization, the Order of Twelve, aided hundreds of slaves to freedom. Moses Dickson raised funds for the Railroad and directly arranged individual escape plans, including Henry “Box” Brown, shipped north in a wooden box. 



Related Article: The History of African Americans in Cincinnati



The Knights disbanded during the Civil War, and many members, including Dickson, joined the Union Army. With the end of the Civil War, Dickson focused on education and economic development among the freed people.


Dickson became an ordained minister in the AME church and the Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons of Missouri. With other returning Black Union soldiers, he also co-founded what is now Lincoln University.


Additionally, Moses Dickson co-founded the Missouri Equal Rights League. He served as president of the Refugee Relief Board, which aided 16,000 African Americans from the South who ended up in St. Louis.



Related Article: Stories of the Underground Railroad and the Important Ties to Cincinnati



Moses Dickson Monument
Moses Dickson Monument, Crestwood, MO

Dickson and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, had one daughter. He died of typhoid fever in 1901 and is buried at the Father Dickson Cemetery in Missouri. 


Although Moses Dickson did most of his work to abolish slavery in Missouri, Ohio was a major player in the Underground Railroad. Of the estimated 100,000 slaves who escaped the South, nearly 40,000 are believed to have traveled through the Buckeye State.




Related Article: Learn about the first African American religious congregation in Cincinnati



Moses Dickson – Wikipedia
Cincinnati History Library and Archives –



About The First 28

The First 28, graciously sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, celebrates Black Cincinnatians who were the first in their fields. Each day during Black History Month, we will celebrate athletes, artists, business leaders, civil rights activists, educators, physicians, and politicians.



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Images provided by Wikipedia and the African American Registry

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Written by Sophie Barsan


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