Black History Month - At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality
The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington
In August 1861, Major General John C. Frémont, Union commander of the Western Department out of St. Louis, issued a declaration of martial law in Missouri in an attempt to contain the warring guerrilla rebels within the state. Frémont believed slavery aided these rebels in their illegal activities. As such, he included his own "emancipation proclamation" in the text of this declaration: “. . . all persons in the State of Missouri, who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly proven to have taken an active part with their enemies in the field . . . their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared freemen.” Though President Abraham Lincoln was less than pleased and would ultimately force Frémont to rescind the order, this first proclamation against slavery opened a dialogue in America that would never again be quieted. Frémont’s initiative was finally adopted by those in Washington over a year later when, on Jan. 1, 1863, President Lincoln declared slaves in all confederate states at war with the Union "forever free" in the official Emancipation Proclamation. Our state continued its push toward the end of slavery when, in 1865, members of the constitutional convention in Missouri, including president of the convention Arnold Krekel, signed a document emancipating all slaves within our borders. Krekel’s appointment to a seat on the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri that same year would be one of the last federal nominations by President Lincoln.
This year’s theme of Black History Month is At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington, celebrating two important events in American history along with the contributions, past and present, of African Americans in the United States. During this Black History Month, we commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, held in August 1963, and we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s tireless efforts toward civil rights.
Originally established as Black History Week in February 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson, the tribute was expanded into Black History Month in 1976 as part of our nation’s bicentennial. Every President since Gerald Ford has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month, including our current leader and the first African American to hold the office, President Barack Obama. As President Obama said in his 2012 official proclamation, “[W]e pay tribute to the contributions of past generations and reaffirm our commitment to keeping the American dream alive for the next generation. In honor of those women and men who paved the way for us, and with great expectations for those to follow, let us continue the righteous cause of making America what it should be -- a Nation that is more just and more equal for all its people.”
To celebrate Black History Month in Missouri, participate in an event near you:
- Feb. 1 – 28: Visit The Black Archives Museum in St. Joseph, 3406 Frederick Avenue. The museum features exhibits on such topics as the Underground Railroad, the Middle Passage, desegregation, education, sports, and other aspects of African-American history in St. Joseph. The Black Archives features a Hall of Fame, created to showcase the achievements and contributions of St. Joseph’s African-American citizens. The museum also includes an exhibit on St. Joseph’s best known musician, the “Father of the Tenor Sax,” Coleman Randolph Hawkins. Visiting hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m. The museum is closed on major holidays. For more information, call 816-232-8471.
- Feb. 1 – 28: The Local Investment Commission (LINC), along with its partners the Black Archives of Mid-America and the Kansas City Public Library, is again producing and sharing its annual Black History educational poster set and booklets, African Americans in the Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border. This year, in recognition of the Civil War sesquicentennial, they highlight the involvement of African Americans in the conflict, which had its origins in the earlier border wars between Missouri and Kansas. The Civil War was a brutal, bloody conflict over the issue of slavery, its expansion, and other issues that enveloped the nation like no other event before or since. Copies of the booklets will be available at the Kansas City Public Library, the Black Archives of Mid-America, and some branches of Mid-Continent Public Library. The Black Archives of Mid-America is also creating a teacher's guide and other educational materials which will be available by contacting them by phone at 816-221-1600. LINC also is willing to send, at no cost, copies of this year's materials to the public. You may place your order online or by calling 816-410-8388.
- Feb. 1 – 28: View the Missouri monument dedicated to the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry. These individuals comprised the first all-black unit to be recruited and enlisted. They were also the first all-black unit to see combat and to fight alongside white troops. Approximately eight miles southwest of Butler, off of Missouri 52 at State Highway K & Marth Road, these men wearing the blue of the Union fought in the Battle of Island Mound, where they clashed with Confederate forces and engaged in a fierce fight. Eight members of the unit were killed, while 11 others were wounded. Rebel losses are estimated as high as 40 men. You can also visit the Island Mound Statue on the Courthouse Square in Butler, a life-size sculpture by Joel Randall created to commemorate those that fought in this bloody battle. For more information, call 800-334-6946.
- Feb. 7, 14, 22: The Kansas City Art Institute has a Black History Month weekly brown bag lecture series from noon to 1 p.m. in the Vanderslice Hall reception room, 4415 Warwick Boulevard, Kansas City. On Feb. 7, KCAI's speaker series kicks off with a presentation by Dorthea Williams, Ph.D., executive director of Black Archives of Mid-America (BAMA). On Feb. 14, KCAI features “Turbulence, Perspective & Opportunity: An Investor’s Guide,” a presentation by David Jackson, CFP, CMFC. KCAI concludes its series on Feb. 22, with “Sarah Rector: Kansas City’s First Black Millionaire” in a presentation by Geri Sanders, administrative assistant in the president’s office at the KCAI and instructor of African American and American history at Metropolitan Community College—Penn Valley. For more information, contact Special Events Director Bridgette Chirpich at 816-802-3463 or email@example.com.
- Feb. 9: Join the Westport Historical Society for its Second Saturday Speaker Series: The 1855 Lexington Pro-Slavery Convention. Dr. Timothy Westcott will lead an interactive, insightful presentation on "The 1855 Lexington Pro-Slavery Convention," where representatives from 25 Missouri counties met at Lexington, Missouri, in July 1855 to discuss numerous actions and resolutions, which included the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, reaction against eastern state colonization companies, and interference with slavery. The event will be held at 2 p.m. at the Kansas City Public Library's Westport Branch, 118 Westport Road, Kansas City, followed by a reception at the Harris House, 40th & Baltimore, Kansas City. For more information, call 816-701-3400.
- Feb. 18 – 22: In honor of Black History Month, Tommy Terrific will be performing a magic show about the African-American scientist and inventor George Washington Carver. The show will feature magic tricks related to Carver’s promotion of peanuts, sweet potatoes, and much more. Tommy will explore the products, inventions, and accomplishments of Carver, also known as the “Wizard of Tuskegee.” This show is appropriate for children of all ages. The first performance will be held on Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. at the Westport Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 118 Westport Road, followed by a second show on Feb. 19 at 10 a.m. at the Central Library Branch, 14 West 10th Street. The show on Feb. 20 will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Trails West Branch, 11401 East 23rd Street, with three additional performances on Feb. 21 at the Sugar Creek Branch, 102 South Sterling Avenue, at 10 and 11 a.m., and at the North-East Branch, 6000 Wilson Road, at 5 p.m. The final performance will be held on Feb. 22 at 10 a.m. at the Waldo Branch, 201 East 75th Street. For more information, call 816-701-3400 or to reserve your seat, RSVP here.
- Feb. 20: Presented each season during Black History Month by the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, Setting the Stage provides an opportunity to enjoy stunning live performances alternating with a fascinating narrated slide show that walks through African-American dance history as it is interwoven into the broader tapestry of black history. The performance will be held at The Gem Theater, 1615 East 18th Street in the historic Jazz District of Kansas City at 7:30 p.m., and admission is free. For more information, call 816-471-6003 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Feb. 28: Historian Leon Litwack kicks off this year’s Richard D. McKinzie Research Symposium at the Kansas City Public Library with his talk on The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main Street, Kansas City, at 6:30 p.m. In the summer of 1963, more than 200,000 demonstrators descended on the nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The event was highlighted by Martin Luther King’s memorable “I Have a Dream” speech and pressured the Kennedy administration into initiating a strong federal civil rights bill. For more information, call 816-701-3400.
- Feb. 6: Join the Missouri State Museum, First Floor of the State Capitol, 201 West Capitol, Jefferson City, for “A Fight for Freedom and Union” Museum After Hours, at 7 p.m. Miller Boyd III, a doctoral candidate from the University of Mississippi, will discuss the African-American response to the Civil War in Missouri as well as black enlistment and contraband free labor in Missouri during the war. This program will take place in the museum classroom, which is located in the History Hall (east wing). The museum will be open late that evening, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 573-522-9060.
- Feb. 7: Columbia Parks & Recreation will feature an African-American Film & Discussion: “Two Nations of Black America” with a screening of “Setting the Record Straight,” a film that introduces the younger generations to the forgotten heroes and untold stories from African American political history. The event begins at 7 p.m. and will be held at the Armory Sports Center, 701 East Ash, Columbia. For more information, call 573-874-7460.
- Feb. 7: The Daniel Boone Regional Library (DBRL) will hold a program on African-American Music and Musicians featuring historian Bill Thompson. Thompson is well-known for his musical skill and knowledge of the history of African-American music. Join the Callaway County Public Library, a branch of the DBRL, 710 Court Street, Fulton, for this interactive presentation about the contributions of African-Americans to the music we hear today. For more information, call 573-642-0662.
- Feb. 18: A discussion by Mary Beth Brown will be given at the Columbia Public Library, 100 West Broadway, from 7 to 8:15 p.m. on how urban renewal and the Civil Rights Movement affected Columbia's black community. Learn more about important Columbians like Annie Fisher and Henry Kirklin and the part of downtown known as the Sharp End. Brown is currently pursuing a doctorate at the University of Missouri, specializing in 20th century African-American history. For more information, call 573-443-3161 or 800-324-4806.
- Feb. 1 – 28: The St. Louis County Library will have its annual hands-on exhibit of African American inventions during Black History Month at the Rock Road Branch, 10267 St. Charles Rock Road, St. Ann. Learn about the inventors, see their patent drawings, and try out their inventions. At the Mid-County Branch, 7821 Maryland Avenue, St. Louis, stop by the Black History Month display to take a quiz, fill in a timeline, and join in other fun activities centered on the accomplishments of notable black Americans. Both exhibits are open during library hours. The Natural Bridge Branch, 7606 Natural Bridge Road, St. Louis, will have a showing of Unchained Memories on Feb. 4 at 6 p.m., followed by a discussion. On Feb. 7 and 14, the Bridgeton Trails Branch, 3455 McKelvey Road, Bridgeton, will hold a showing of parts one and two of "African American Lives," a genealogical documentary hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. from 7-9 p.m. For more information on these and other events celebrating Black History Month, call Customer Connect at 314-994-3300 or visit the Library’s website.
- Mondays in February: Join the Schlafly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library, 225 North Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, for Monday Movie Madness: At the Crossroads – 150 Years Since the Emancipation Proclamation, at 6 p.m. Monday Movie Madness celebrates Black History Month by examining the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation in today's society. There will be discussion and refreshments after viewing the films. The feature on Feb. 4 is “Slavery by Another Name,” the harrowing story of how a new system of involuntary servitude took its place with shocking force in the South. On Feb. 11, “The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation” will be screened. This documentary features interviews with former Panthers, political prisoners, and revolutionaries. On Feb. 18, “Flight to Freedom: The Underground Railroad” will be featured. Between 1790 and 1860, thousands of slaves fled the South for liberation on the Underground Railroad. In addition to examining archival photographs, records, artifacts, and interviews with national experts and descendants of slaves, conductors, and abolitionists, this program includes examples of spirituals sung by slaves as part of the "code" system, and visits homes which were used as shelters. On Feb. 25, the final screening in this series is “Abraham Lincoln: A New Birth of Freedom.” When Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, he set in motion a process of emancipation that is still unfolding today. This classic program filled with location footage, archival photos, and excerpts from speeches, diaries, letters, and newspapers documents Lincoln's life, while emphasizing his contributions to the struggle for racial equality. For more information, call 314-367-4120.
- Wednesdays in February: Join the Cabanne Branch of the St. Louis Public Library, 1106 Union Boulevard, St. Louis, for Show Time: Black Achievement In America, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. This eight-part series, presented by James Avery, recounts the personalities who rose above the odds to make lasting contributions to our culture. Discussion will follow the films. View “Settling the New World and Founding the United States of America" and "Emergence of the Black Hero" on Feb. 6. On Feb. 13, screen "The Fight for Freedom" and "Blacks Enter the Gilded Age." Presented on Feb. 20 will be "The Foundation for Equality" and "Depression and War." On Feb. 27, viewers will enjoy "Civil Rights" and "A New Age." For more information, call 314-367-0717.
- Feb. 8: Southeast Missouri State University presents The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: A Discussion of Biology, Bioethics and Culturally Competent Health Care beginning at noon in the University Center Redhawks Room, 388 North Henderson Avenue, Cape Girardeau. Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old black mother of five, migrated to Baltimore from the tobacco farms of Virginia. Join this discussion of the amazing contributions of the HeLa cells as well as the astonishing consequences. For more information, contact Bobbi J. Palmer at 573-651-5902 or email@example.com.
- Feb. 17: From 2 – 4 p.m., the St. Louis Public Library Central Branch, 1301 Olive Street, St. Louis, presents Anita Hill as the Black History Month keynote speaker. After the address, she will do a brief question and answer session with the audience, then sign her books. Her latest book is Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home. She has also written her biography, Speaking Truth to Power. Seating in the auditorium is first-come, first-served. There will also be overflow rooms with video feed. For more information, call 314-241-2288.
- Feb. 22: The St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus, vocalist Wintley Phipps, and the St. Louis Symphony come together under the direction of conductor Kevin McBeth for a soulful celebration full of spirit and song commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic speech at 7:30 p.m. at Powell Hall, 718 North Grand Boulevard, St. Louis. To purchase tickets by phone or for more information, call 314-534-1700 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase tickets online, visit the Symphony’s website.