US Military's Role in Bringing Slavery to Minnesota Topic of Free Lecture at Historic Fort Snelling Oct. 18

For immediate release

Release dated: 
September 18, 2013
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen • Marketing and Communications • 651-259-3148 •

Megan Lawson • Marketing and Communications • 651-259-3141 •

Tom Pfannenstiel • Historic Fort Snelling • 612-725-2430 •

Quick facts: 

Event: Northern Slaves: How the U.S. Army Brought Slavery to Minnesota

Date: Friday, Oct. 18
Time: 7 p.m.
Address: Historic Fort Snelling, 200 Tower Avenue, St. Paul MN 55111
Cost: Free
Phone: 612-726-1171

US Military's Role in Bringing Slavery to Minnesota Topic of Free Lecture at Historic Fort Snelling Oct. 18

While researching the death of a family member during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, Walt Bachman uncovered the story of Joseph Godfrey, a man who was raised in slavery despite having been born in the "free" territory of Minnesota in the 1830s. Bachman, author of "Northern Slave, Black Dakota: The Life and Times ogodfreyf Joseph Godfrey" will share his research documenting how the U.S. Army rewarded officers for keeping enslaved people as servants in "free" states and territories. This program takes place on Friday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Historic Fort Snelling visitor center. The program is free. Copies of "Northern Slave, Black Dakota: The Life and Times of Joseph Godfrey" will be available for sale and signing.

Joseph Godfrey was born a slave in 1835, the son of a French Canadian voyageur and a slave woman who was brought to Fort Snelling by an American army officer.

Godfrey grew up enslaved serving Minnesota's fur trade elite. He eventually escaped to live with the Dakota. In 1857 he married a Dakota woman, and fought alongside the Dakota during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. After the war, Godfrey was imprisoned and tried for murder in a military court created by one of his former masters, Henry H. Sibley, a prominent fur trader and the first Governor of Minnesota. Godfrey was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted by President Lincoln. He lived the remainder of his life on an Indian reservation in Nebraska.

About Historic Fort Snelling

Historic Fort Snelling is located near the airport at the intersections of Hwys. 5 and 55. Originally a frontier outpost, this fort was later used for military training from the Civil War through World War II. Overlooking the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, the site is staffed with living-history interpreters who portray the soldiers, cooks, laundresses, storekeepers and craftspersons who inhabited the fort in the 1800s. The stone and wood-frame buildings have been restored to their original appearance. For more information, call 612-726-1171.

About the Minnesota Historical Society

The Society’s calendar of events is posted online at The website also has information about all of the Society’s programs, museums and historic sites.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, the Society preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.