From Preservation Issues, Volume 3, Number 1
Electronic Editor's Note:
Several modifications have been made to this article. Originally published in Jan/Feb 1993,
it contained dates and times of operation for all of the sites listed. Many of these
times will have changed in the past two years, therefore they have been removed so as not
Some sites have relocated or otherwise changed since publication. New information has been
added to the entry in brackets.
Black Historic Sites to Visitby the staff of Preservation Issues
Hundreds of significant historic sites associated with Missouri's
African American heritage have been identified by the Historic
Preservation Program. The following list of sites that are open
to the public was excerpted from the Hippocrene U.S.A. Guide to
Black America by Marcella Thum.
- Museum of Art and Archaeology, in National
Register-listed Pickard Hall on the University of Missouri campus
(corner of University Avenue and 9th Street) has a small but
excellent exhibit of African art called "Expressions of Africa."
Traditional African art is not only displayed but is explained in
relation to its practical use. Pieces range from Ashanti
fertility figures to intricately carved masks, giving physical
form to the spiritual. Works of black artists also form part of
the museum's collection and there are often visiting African
American art exhibits.
- The George Washington Carver National Monument,
southeast of Joplin and two-and-one-half miles southwest of
Diamond, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The young Carver spent his childhood on the Moses Carver farm at
this site. The trails that the young Carver enjoyed walking have
been preserved, along with his own private garden area. In the
midst of this garden is a bronze statue of the boy Carver.
Visitors may listen to a tape recording of Carver's last public
There is also a demonstration garden containing the main crops
that the noted black scientist used in developing hundreds of
projects. A visitor's center displays exhibits on Carver's early
life, work, and honors.
- Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, at the
northeast edge of Independence, on U.S. 24 at Delaware Street.
It was from Independence that many wagon trains started their
long, dangerous trips west in the 19th century. Artist Thomas
Hart Benton's mural, "Independence and the Opening of the West"
at the Truman Library shows an African American blacksmith hard
at work. The man in the painting is Hiram Young who lived in
Independence and made his fortune building wagons for many of the
The museum also contains important documents relating to the
civil rights movement that were executed by Truman during his
- Lincoln University, 820 Chestnut Street, was
founded on the dreams of uneducated ex-slaves, the men of the
62nd Missouri Colored Volunteers who served during the Civil War.
The money for the school was raised from the regiment. enlisted
men who drew only $13 a month in pay gave as much as $100. Begun
as the Lincoln Institute in 1866, its first permanent building
was erected in 1871. The Lincoln University Hilltop Campus is a
National Register historic district.
The Inman E. Page Library, on the campus, has a collection of art
works by noted black American artists, such as Aaron Douglas,
Hale Woodruff, and James Porter.
- Black Archives of Mid-America, 2033 Vine Street,
is housed in the first fire station in Missouri to be managed by
blacks. The museum highlights notable black figures in sports,
entertainment, and politics, and serves as a regional research
center and repository of records and information relating to the
African American experience in the Midwest.
- Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, at 3700 Blue Parkway
(Swope Parkway and Benton Boulevard) commemorates the history of
Kansas City's black community. Bruce R. Watkins was a black
community leader throughout his adult life. Among the highlights
of the center are the Spirit of Freedom fountain, the brush Creek
Amphitheater, and the Grand Hall of Fame. Within the hall is the
Wall of Fame, which honors notable black Kansas Citians. The
center offers dramatic and musical productions as well as
educational and art exhibits.
- Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. When this museum is completed,
it will be part of the International Jazz Hall of Fame in the
18th and Vine National Register Historic District. Upon
arriving, the visitor will be greeted by a statue of Satchel
Paige throwing his famous "hesitation pitch." Exhibits will
weave black history into arrangements of artifacts and photos
about the Negro League, which was organized at Kansas City,
Missouri, in 1920. Call (816) 924-7373 for more information. [Location: 1601 East 18th Street,
- Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak Street, has a collection
of African art as well as African American pieces by Richard
Hunt, Jacob Lawrence, and Julian Binford.
- Lewis and Clark Center, 701 Riverside Drive, has
life-size exhibits and dioramas on the Lewis and Clark expedition
that explored the West in 1804. The exhibits include information
about York, the black servant of William Clark, who proved
invaluable as a hunter and fisherman as well as for his skills in
negotiating with the Indian tribes.
- Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, on the
waterfront at Market Street, includes not only the world-famous
National Register-listed Gateway Arch but also the Museum of
Westward Expansion, which is housed beneath the Arch. The museum
contains fascinating exhibits on black pioneers and the rangers
who conduct tours through the museum point out the role that
black men and women played in the westward trek.
- The Old Courthouse, at Broadway and Market Streets, is part of
the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Before the Civil War,
slaves were sold on the courthouse steps to settle estates. It
was here that the slave Dred Scott filed suit to gain his freedom
in 1846. The litigation went on for 11 years, eventually making
its way to the Supreme Court. Although Dred Scott finally lost
his case, the decision handed down by Judge Taney widened the
split between the North and the South over the issue of
slavery. Ironically, Dred Scott himself was set free by his
owner a few weeks after the decision was rendered and died a year
later. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery.
The courthouse has two restored courtrooms and five museum
galleries on St. Louis history, including exhibits on the Dred
Scott Case. The building is listed in the National Register.
- Quinn Chapel, at 225 Bowen Street, near the Mississippi River
was built as a public market in 1870. The building was
transferred to the Carondelet African Methodist Episcopal Church
in 1880. This black congregation had formed in 1845 and called
its new church Quinn Chapel, after the A.M.E.'s fourth bishop,
William P. Quinn, who opened up the West to African evangelism.
The church, listed in the National Register of Historic Places,
has been used by the same organization at the same location for
more than 100 years.
- St. Louis Art Museum stands on the top of Art Hill in Forest
Park. The museum has a good collection of African art and a
small collection of works by African American artists, including
Robert S. Duncanson's oil painting, "View of the St. Anne's
- Historic Museum in the Jefferson Memorial, also in Forest Park
(off Lindell Boulevard), chronicles the history of St. Louis, including a display of photographs
and artifacts of blacks in the city's history.
- St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, 100 Stadium Plaza, is on the
Walnut Street side of Busch Memorial Stadium, between Gates 5 and
6. This live-action museum of St. Louis sports history includes
all sports, but in large part tells the story of baseball. The
room honoring players of the St. Louis Cardinals team has
larger-than-life-size pictures of famous black Cardinal baseball
players, such as Bob Gibson and Cool Papa Bell. World Series
movies are also shown.
- Scott Joplin House State Historic Site, 2658 Delmar Boulevard,
just west of Jefferson Avenue, was the home of the King of
Ragtime. One of the nation's most creative black musicians,
Joplin lived on the second floor of this four-family flat at the
trun of the century during his "St. Louis period," and composed
some of his most famous works there.
The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and
has been restored to look as it did when Joplin lived and worked
there. The building also includes a museum and exhibit area for
black history and culture, including a room for musical
performances. The building next door, the "new" Rosebud Club,
will be turned into a museum of ragtime music.
Photos by Nick Decker. The Scott Joplin House State Historic Site in St. Louis, home of the legendary
"King of Ragtime," is open to the public. The two-story brick building is an early example of a St. Louis four-family flat...
- Stowe Teacher's College (now Harris-Stowe), 3026 Laclede, was
founded a century ago as a training school of black teachers, the
first black institution of higher education west of the
Mississippi. Stowe merged with Harris Teachers College, a
training school for white teachers, in 1954. The small but
excellent archives of historical black material in the library at
Harris-Stowe is available to the public by appointment.
One of Stowe's outstanding graduates was Julia Davis who went on
to teach three generations of black students at the college. She
contributed the Julia Davis Collection of black resource material
to the St. Louis Public Library and a branch library has been
named in her honor. The Julia Davis Library, 4666 Natural
Bridge [New branch location: 4415 Natural Bridge], has memorabilia of Julia Davis.
- Vaughn Cultural Center, 525 North Grand, has changing monthly
exhibits on African American history and culture. Bus tours of
black St. Louis also begin at this center, led by experienced
tour guides, who describe black St. Louis history with
fascinating stories, legend, and fact.
- Maple Leaf Room Ragtime Collection has a permanent
home in the Learning Resources Center at State Fair Community
College. Sedalia has been called the cradle of classical
ragtime. It was while black composer Scott Joplin was playing
his ragtime music at the Maple Leaf Club here in 1899 that John
Stark, a music store owner, purchased the "Maple Leaf Rag" from
Joplin for $50 and Joplin's royalties. The sale of the music
made both Stark and Joplin financially independent...and ragtime
music internationally famous. The "Maple Leaf Rag" became one of the
first pieces of American sheet music to sell over one million
The original Maple Leaf Club stood at the intersection of Lamine
and Main Streets. A monument marks the spot. The ragtime
collection at the college contains sheet music, piano rolls,
tapes of interviews, and memorabilia of Scott Joplin and other
ragtime greats. The Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival is held
annually in June.
All text and photos are taken from Preservation Issues
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Historic Preservation Program, P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, MO 65102
Editor: Karen Grace
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