All Missourians should be familiar with a few of the black personalities who helped make and spread the fame of the "Show-Me" State.
Many Negroes working under discriminatory handicaps have contributed to Missouri labor, politics, education, art, science, literature, Sports, entertainment and music.
Blacks faced discouraging obstacles in securing an education in the natural sciences. After having achieved these skills they have often been compelled to sell their services or patents for trivial sums.
Yet some black Missourians achieved fame in their fields. Among them were Clarence Gregg, known for his machine gun and smoke-consuming devices, John McClennand for sparktimers, oil pumps, and carburetors; and Robert H. Pennington for his railroad signals.
Dr. Charles Henry Turner received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1907 as a specialist in insect behavior. Teaching at Sumner High School in St. Louis, Turner lectured and wrote scientific papers until his death in 1923.
A professor-emeritus of Lincoln University, Dr. W. W. Dowdy, is nationally recognized for his published studies on the ecology of invertebrates. The late Dr. Edward Ferguson was engaged in biological research while at Lincoln University. His son, the late Dr. Lloyd Ferguson, was engaged in cancer research at the University of Chicago at the time of his death in 1973.
Dr. Willis Byrd has won international attention for his research in chemistry. A Lincoln graduate, Dr. Moddie Taylor professor of chemistry at Howard University, is the author of several textbooks in his field. He also gained distinction by his work on the atomic bomb. A Lincoln professor, Dr. Nathan Cook, is researching the "Effects of Cancer Compounds on the Growth of Cells and Chromosomes."
Of all the scientists produced by Missouri, none has won more fame nor received more acclaim than George Washington Carver. Born the slave of Moses Carver, Diamond, Missouri, in 1861, the youngster could hardly have dreamed what an impression he was to make upon the world. A band of pro-slavery men carried off both mother and son to Arkansas, but Carver hired a "bushwhacker" who found and returned George, more dead than alive.
Carver was a frail and sickly child. He yearned for an education, but there were no schools for blacks in that area. When his curiosity about plants and his zeal for an education became untenable, Carver started out on his own. His life reads like an odyssey. Picking up an elementary education wherever he could, Carver finally, by working as a domestic for a Kansas family, secured a high school education.
After many disappointments, Carver enrolled in Simpson College in Iowa, having been refused entry elsewhere because of his color. Although interested in art he finally attended Ames College, now Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Ames, Iowa, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1891. Here he met young Henry Wallace later the Secretary of Agriculture under Franklin D. Roosevelt, with whom he became a life-long friend.
After Carver earned his master's degree in science in 1898, Booker T. Washington invited him to come to Tuskegee Institute. Loath as he was to leave Ames he accepted.
There in a cramped "laboratory", lacking the essential tools for research he made his phenomenal discoveries which were to revolutionize Southern agriculture and to prove of lasting benefit to the world. Washington appointed him Head of the Agricultural Department as well as Director and Consultant Chemist of the experimental station.
Carver's contributions were many. He developed new and more resistant strains of cotton, thus increasing the South's cotton yield. Rags, paper and other trash he converted into fertilizer. To revitalize worn out soil he persuaded farmers to raise peas, soybeans and cow peas. He also developed hundreds of products from sweet potatoes and peanuts.
Carver became world famous but so humble was he that he rejected the offers which came to him to leave Tuskegee. Not only Henry A. Wallace, but Presidents Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt, scientists like Thomas Edison, and inventors like Henry Ford became his admirers and friends. In 1931, Joseph Stalin invited him to Russia to overlook the cotton plantations of the Soviet Union. Carver sent some of his ablest students, but he felt obligated to fulfill his commitment to Washington, though the latter was long since deceased.
Too frugal to spend his meager earnings, at his death in 1943, he left his savings of $33,000 to the Carver Laboratory at Tuskegee.
In honor of his many contributions the United States, in 1952 built a monument near Diamond, the Old Carver home and made it a national memorial.
There are Carver schools all over the country. George Washington Carver, however, is the only black American to whom a national monument has ever been erected.
Along with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Carver was elected to the Hall of Fame of Great Americans at New York University in 1973.
Another Missourian made his fame not only as an inventor but also as the most outstanding jockey of his time. He was Tom Bass.
Born a slave in Boone County in 1859, Tom grew up in Mexico, Missouri, and later trained some of the finest race and show horses of the day. Later he moved to Kansas City, where he invented the "Bass bit," which is used today. Bass' career was at its peak when he rode during the Inauguration of President Grover Cleveland in 1885, before Queen Marie of Romania. In 1897, he rode "Miss Rex" in London at a command performance before Queen Victoria.
In other sports black Missourians not only have won fame but have acted as agents to lessen or eliminate discrimination and segregation in other areas of human living. Furthermore, they have been an inspiration to both white and black youth. In baseball, John Donaldson, "Dizzy" Dismukes, Frank Barnes, Nathaniel Peeples, Curtis Roberts, "Lefty" Robinson, Earl Tabor were a few of the baseball "greats" who could have easily made the Big Leagues had not prejudice barred them.
Most popular of all was the late Jackie Robinson, the first black player to enter Major Leagues in 1957. Robinson starred with the Brooklyn Dodgers and went on from there to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York.
His entry opened the doors for other black players when team owners found that black players could revive a "dying' sport. In quick succession, other teams followed and the turnstiles hummed as teams bid against each other for promising black players.
Greatest of all the black players was the legendary pitcher Satchel Paige, now living in Kansas City. Kept out of major league baseball for years because of his color, he has still been called one of the greatest pitchers of all times. As an attraction, he first went to the St. Louis Browns, then with Cleveland.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in August, 1971.
Henry Thompson also played with the St. Louis Browns, then with the New York Yankees. Elston Howard, of St. Louis, for years was the stand-out catcher with the Yankees.
Lincoln University, which did not at that time have a baseball team, sent Ted Savage to the majors. He played for Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Today black players such as Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, among other white and blacks have done much to make the Cardinal's pennant contenders.
Amos Otis and John Mayberry are among the blacks and whites who have made the Kansas City Royals into one of baseball's fastest building new clubs.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis football Cardinals have brought a host of black athletes into public prominence.
Missouri has had its share of outstanding blacks in high school and college football. The integration of the Jefferson City Senior High School prompted a white student to exclaim, "Now we are going to have a great team because the colored students will be playing with us." His prophesy came true. The Jays went on to set a record by winning 71 games straight from 1958 to 1966.
In the universities and professional football, Negro Missourians also won stardom. From the University of Missouri, Jon Staggers played with the Pittsburgh Steelers, then with the Green Bay Packers; Francis Peay also played with the Packers; John Harrison, and Joe Moore starred with the Chicago Bears; Jim Talbert, after graduating from Iowa, played over four years with the San Diego Chargers, and Johnny Roland with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Lincoln's LaMarr Parrish and Leo Lewis after outstanding performances at their alma mater went into professional careers. Lewis went on to win honors with Winnipeg as the outstanding player of the Canadian League. He later returned to succeed Dwight Reed as football coach of the Lincoln team. Reed, now Director of Athletics, was an all-American end while playing at the University of Minnesota.
Negro ministers have always played a significant role in seeking full citizenship for black people. Although some of them hewed to traditional lines, others, perhaps better prepared and more courageous, have made themselves conspicuous by their leadership.
Among them are the Reverend Charles Briscoe, of the Paseo Baptist Church of Kansas City and former President of the School Board; Reverend Edward Warner, also a member of the School Board; Reverend John Williams, pastor of Stephens Baptist, the largest Negro church in Kansas City and the Reverends Earl Able and Woody Hall.
In Jefferson City, there is the Reverend David Shipley of the Second Baptist Church.
St. Louis has an outstanding group of black ministers, including the Reverends John Meer of the Washington Tabernacle, Alvin Howard of St. James Methodist Church, Dr. James Cummings of Lane Tabernacle and Father Joseph Nicholson of the All Saints Episcopal Church. Dr. Cummings is also a member of the St. Louis Board of Education.
Newspapers published by blacks, beginning with James Russwurm's Freedom's Journal founded in 1827, also have consistently served as a mouthpiece for the Negro community, and also as a weapon to expose and attempt to wipe out segregation and discrimination against their people.
Missouri has six black newspapers. The Kansas City Call was founded by Chester A. Franklin in 1919. St. Louis with a larger black population has five black newspapers, the Sentinel, published in l968 by Howard Woods; the Argus founded in 1912 by J. E. Mitchell, Sr., the St. Louis American, published in 1928 by Nathaniel Sweets; the Mirror founded in 1956, and Proud in 1970.
Most black newspapers are short-lived. Competition with white newspapers, lack of sufficient advertisements, inadequate credit, and low-income readership, all react to reduce the life-span of Negro newspapers in Missouri. It is a tribute, therefore, to publishers of the Kansas City Call, the St. Louis Argus and the St. Louis American that they have been able to survive for an average of more than a half century.
In addition to newspapers, black Missourians are being employed in Missouri's radio and TV stations. KSD-TV of St. Louis, with Diane White, Julius Hunter, and Howard Woods, is evidence of increasing black entry into this field.
Only a few years ago, black radio was characterized by a definite programming pattern--based on a music type called "rhythm & blues". No such definite racial pattern exists today. Stations, once black oriented, program for mass appeals.
KPRS-AM-FM, Kansas City, is black owned, and was the first racially oriented station in Missouri. It was closely followed by KATZ and KWK in St. Louis, as well as KWKI-FM in Kansas City. In some cases, staffs were entirely black, but all are integrated now.
In recent years, the number of black employees in radio has greatly increased, particularly in production and news departments as well as traffic, accounting and other clerical positions.
Neither St. Louis, Kansas City, nor the rest of the state have sufficient black doctors to care for the inner city or rural black communities.
Hospitals, such as Homer G. Phillips Hospital arose from the need for medical care for blacks. Under the present direction of Dr. Eugene Mitchell, Homer G. Phillips Hospital is the largest black hospital in St. Louis.
Of the 168 black physicians and dentists located in St. Louis, many hold prominent roles. There are doctors such as Dr. James Whittico, past president of National Medical Association; Dr. R. Jerome Williams, president of the Missouri Board of Healing Arts; Helen E. Nash, Homer Nash and August Piper, pediatricians; J. W. Nofles and John W. Gladney, ear, nose and throat specialists; E. J. Taylor, obstetrician; Herman Russell, orthopedist; Andrew D. Spencer and Frank O. Richards, surgeons. Of the approximately 100 black physicians listed in Kansas City, some of the more prominent include Drs. Albert Crocker and Starks J. Williams, pediatricians; and Dr. Hayward Jackson, hematologist. Drs. William E. Ross and Charles Cooper, general practitioners; and Elmer Jackson, psychiatrist, are located in Jefferson City.
Blacks have also increased their quota of nurses, therapists, radiologists, and other medical workers since training and job opportunities have steadily opened for them, not only in metropolitan area hospitals, but in the smaller towns like Jefferson City and Columbia as well.
Among black social workers the names Anna Hill Scott, Ina Lindsey, William Douthitt, Leo Bohannon, Chester Stovall and Roy Wilkins are standouts. Wilkins went from reporter and editor of the Kansas City Call to New York City, where as Executive Director of the NAACP, he has won international fame for his work in civil rights.
The number of blacks in the legal profession has increased during the last few decades. The need for Negro lawyers generated by the Black Power Movement cannot be discounted. The assistance extended by the United States Office of Education has also underscored the need for black lawyers.
According to a recent poll, black lawyers comprise only about one per cent of the nation's 325,000 lawyers, and among the 21,000 full or part-time judges, only 250 are black.
Until recently, most Negro lawyers had little opportunity for receiving equal justice for their clients before the bar. Largely through necessity, then, they confined their work to representing clients in areas of divorce and petty crimes. Now, however, some Negro lawyers engage in general practice in St. Louis and Kansas City. Among them are attorneys Henry D. Espey, Joseph McDuffie, and Frankie Freeman and black firms Bell, Freewood and Jones, and Harris, Grant and Howard.
Leonard Hughes Jr. served as assistant prosecutor in Kansas City. A black St. Louisan, George W. Draper II, was the first black assistant attorney general of Missouri appointed by United States Senator Thomas F. Eagleton, when he was Attorney General of the State. Mrs. Frankie Freeman is a long-time member of the United States Commission on Human Rights.
Other outstanding black lawyers include Clifford M. Spottsville, who is currently a municipal judge in Kansas City, Daniel T. Tillman, Circuit Court judge in St. Louis and Theodore McMillian, the first black judge in the Missouri Court of Appeals, St. Louis District. Former Missouri Assistant Attorney General and Acting Director of the St. Louis Model City Agency Margaret Bush Wilson has been active in the civil rights movement and is a member of the national board of the NAACP.
Finally, Harold Holliday was the first black to graduate from the law school of University of Missouri-Kansas City, and is presently a state representative from Kansas City.
In addition to the legal profession, black Missourians have played important roles in education. To attempt to list the most prominent of them would be beyond the limits of this article. However, it would be impossible to omit mentioning a few of them.
Christopher Hubbard of Sedalia, as principal of the school named after him, for years inspired students to obtain a college education. Mrs. M. J. Copeland was appointed in 1867 as the first black teacher in the public schools of Kansas City; and her husband can truly be regarded as the founder of Lincoln High School. Significant among the black educators in Missouri stand George Boyer Vashon and George Boyer Vashon Jr., Frank Lunsford Williams, Dr. Lawrence Nicholson, Dr. James Scott and Dr. Samuel Shepherd and Dr. Herman Dreer, of St. Louis; Dr. Robert Wheeler, Dr. A. Leedy Campbell, Dr. Girard Bryant, Dr. Odell Thurman and Dr. Perry Kirkpatrick of Kansas City; and H. D. Drew of Bunceton.
Lincoln University stands at the capstone of Negro education in Missouri. From its beginning in 1866, it became State Normal School in 1870, and finally Lincoln University in 1921. In 1954, it extended its role to serve all persons without respect to race. Today it stands as a distinguished institution which contains the most open society of any college in America with its more than 2,400 students, in about equal proportion of black and white. A distinguished group of black educators and administrators have guided the University toward achieving its potential as an outstanding institution of higher education.
Recently Negroes have played an increasing role in state politics. The first black state representative following Walthall M. Moore, elected in 1922, was J. McKinley Neal, of Kansas City, who was elected in 1948.
The Civil Rights Movement, plus more educated and militant blacks has raised the number now to 14 state representatives, including two women, and two senators.
The first black elected to the State Senate was Theodore D. McNeal of St. Louis in 1960. He served two terms and did not seek reelection in l968. On January 25, 1973, Governor Christopher S. Bond appointed him to head the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners. He is the first black to head the board. n 1972, there were two senators, Franklin Payne and Raymond Howard, from the Fourth and Fifth Districts, respectively, in St. Louis.
Only one black Missourian has been elected to the national legislature. In 1927, Attorney Joseph L. McLemore of St. Louis failed in his race for Congress. From that time on, no black Missourian was successful in obtaining a seat in that body until William Clay of St. Louis was elected in 1970 and reelected in 1972.
Other blacks have been appointed or elected to local and state offices, such as the sweeping election victory in 1970 by Benjamin L. Goins as the first Negro ever elected city-wide license collector for St. Louis. Bruce R. Watkins is clerk of the Jackson County Circuit Court, Kansas City.
Governor Christopher S. Bond issued an executive order specifying "there shall be no discrimination in state employment hiring practices". As evidence of his own decision in this regard, Governor Bond has added several blacks to important positions in his administration.
On the national level President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Lester Walton, a reporter of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and Star Times, Minister to Liberia, 1935-45. President Dwight D. Eisenhower named Jesse Ernest Wilkins of Farmington, Missouri as Assistant Secretary of Labor in 1964. Scoville Richardson is Judge of the Maritime Court in New York City. and James Parsons of Kansas City is a Federal Judge in Chicago.
Black business in Missouri runs the gamut from world-renowned restaurants, to engineering and consulting firms.
The overwhelming number of Negro businesses are service enterprises. Black morticians for instance have a virtual monopoly on the burying of black Missourians.
The same is true of barber and beauty shops, although the Public Accommodations Act of 1964 makes it a violation of constitutional rights to refuse service in such establishments.
The largest black St. Louis bank is the Gateway. In Kansas City, there is the Swope Parkway National.
Most black industries are small, generally employing from one to fifteen persons. Lack of preparation, inability to get sufficient credit, low-income markets and the general attitude of the white community, keeps black businesses from expanding as they might.
In literature, Missouri Negroes can be proud of the heritage of Chester Hines of Jefferson City, Dr. Herman Dreer, of St. Louis, Dick Gregory of St. Louis, and the late Langston Hughes, of Joplin, who won international fame as a poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and historian. Dr. Thomas Pawley, playwright, and Professor Emeritus Cecil A. Blue, short story writer, are two who have distinguished themselves in advancing the artistic life of Missouri, along with painter and author James D. Parks and E. Simms Campbell, artist for Esquire magazine.
Other Missourians like Dr. W. Sherman Savage and Oliver C. Cox, Julia Davis and Herman Dreer have won their spurs as social scientists.
Even more important has been the role of Missouri blacks in music. Hardly a Missourian, black or white, has not heard of "Blind Boone."
Born John William Boone in a federal camp in Saline County, Missouri, he lost both eyes due to brain fever when only six months old. He loved to play the piano. When he was not allowed to play all day, he ran away and wandered about until he was taken in by John Lange Jr., a Negro contractor. He acted as Boone's agent for 35 years.
Boone had an uncanny ability to hear and play by ear any music he heard. Persons were invited to come to the platform, play a composition, and Boone would immediately play it note for note.
As his fame spread, his reputed income exceeded $17,000 a year. So great was the demand for this musical genius, he played throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, and twice toured England, Scotland and Wales.
He also was a composer. His death came suddenly in 1927, shortly after his retirement to Warrensburg.
Greater than Boone's contribution to American music was Scott Joplin's. Joplin is regarded as the founder of what was to become the basis of America's truly unique contribution to classical music--ragtime.
Born in Texarkana, Arkansas in 1866, Joplin came to Sedalia after leaving home at age 17. Scott began experimenting there with the sounds he heard in Chicago. It was an ideal choice for Sedalia was a railroad center, alive with transients from all over the country.
Joplin played at the Maple Leaf Club, owned by John Stark. His playing was so different that people wandering in and out did not mind the almost barren room in which he played. He called his music "rags" but it was a combination of classical and folk music. His first great success was the "Maple Leaf Rag".
According to the Executive Committee of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival, Joplin took his music all over the Midwest.
New York was so eager to see and hear this new musical genius, John Stark, who had been Joplin's first financial backer, moved him there. Joplin's music thrilled his listeners.
His greatness is only now being recognized. New editions of his work have been brought out. The New York Times on January 24, 1971, admonished scholars to get busy on Scott Joplin. The New Yorker, Ebony, Newsweek, Saturday Review and Life all in 1972 ran articles, featuring and praising Joplin as America's greatest composer. He wrote 53 piano pieces, 10 vocals, and two operas before his death in New York in 1917.
Following Scott Joplin's move from Sedalia, Kansas City became the home of ragtime, jazz, and other popular music. Kansas City was famous for such musicians and bandleaders as Errol Garner, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Jimmy Lunceford, and Miles Davis. These all-time greats have helped make Missouri famous for its music.
In the field of classical music. Gene Haynes, Dr. Thomasina Talley Greene, Dr. O. A. Fuller, O'Hara Spearman, Kenneth Billups and Lawrence Kimbrough all add lustre to Missouri's artistic life.
On the stage, classical and operatic stars, like Felicia Weathers and Grace Bumbry have won accolades from worldwide audiences for their artistry. It is a sad commentary upon American racism that these black performers had to be first acclaimed in Europe before being accepted at New York's Metropolitan or other American opera houses.
On the entertainment stage, Missourians Josephine Baker held the international spotlight for years, and Etta Moten gained national fame as a singer. Redd Foxx star of the TV Program, "Sanford and Son", along with his fellow Missourian, Dick Gregory are internationally known comedians. Although not a Missourian, William C. Handy immortalized St. Louis with his "St. Louis Blues".
The foregoing pages show that in spite of the dehumanizing aspects of slavery black people have played an important role in the making of Missouri. They have advanced in the face of prejudice, discrimination, and segregation in all areas of human living. However, instead of yielding to these most discouraging obstacles, black Missourians have, with the assistance of liberal whites, federal, state, and local aid, steadily worked toward one goal--freedom to assume all the rights and responsibilities of first class citizenship. There is still a long way to go before Missouri's motto, "The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law", will be realized for all of its citizens.