Back in Missouri, Lovejoy gradually became a vocal opponent of slavery in his newspaper writings. His editorials aroused opposition, to the extent that Lovejoy soon found it prudent to relocate his family and press across the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois in 1836. But his evolution as a fervent abolitionist or advocate of immediate emancipation for the slaves made Lovejoy very unpopular with many Alton residents as well. His press was destroyed on three occasions, but Lovejoy refused to restrain his opinions. Lovejoy was murdered by a proslavery Alton mob while defending a fourth press on November 7, 1837. His violent death greatly stimulated abolitionist feeling throughout the North.
Today, Lovejoy is regarded as a martyr in the cause of freedom of the press. The library building at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville is named in honor of Elijah Parish Lovejoy.
Colby College, his alma mater, celebrates Lovejoy's life each year. The Elijah Parish Lovejoy award is given to a reporter, editor, or journalist of outstanding achievement. The text of the most recent Lovejoy Convocation Address is made available online through the COLBY COLLEGE home page. Lovejoy materials are preserved by the Special collections unit of the Miller Library at Colby.
Perhaps the most significant assemblage of Elijah Lovejoy materials in existence is to be found in the Wickett-Wiswall Collection, Southwest Collection, TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, Lubbock, Texas.
The papers of Elijah Lovejoy's brother, abolitionist Illinois Congressman Owen Lovejoy, are held by the CLEMENTS LIBRARY, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The Owen Lovejoy Homestead in Princeton, Illinois, a stop on the underground railway to freedom for escaped slaves, is preserved as a museum.