African American Experience in Missouri Lecture Series

Explore Missouri's past and prepare for the future through the African American Experience in Missouri lecture series. A collaboration of the State Historical Society of Missouri's Center for Missouri Studies and the University of Missouri Division of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, it is designed to offer the community opportunities to reach a new understanding of present-day Missouri by learning about the history of African Americans within the state.

Keona K. Ervin, history professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and SHSMO executive director Gary Kremer, both Center for Missouri Studies fellows known for research on African American history, are curating the series to ensure that top scholars in the field are a part of the continuing exploration of the lives of African Americans in Missouri's past.

In 2019-2020, the series is sponsored by The State Historical Society of Missouri’s Center for Missouri Studies and the University of Missouri Division of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity.

Upcoming Events

Join Chuck Haddix for a look at "Early Bird: Charlie Parker’s Life and Music in Kansas City" on November 19.

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Past Events

Nearby Nature in North City St. Louis: Black Residents, Nature, and Contested Green Space

The predominantly black residents of North City St. Louis live in neighborhoods where green spaces have been shaped by two legacies: formal green spaces associated with parks, cemeteries, and private streets that reflect the goals of pre-World War II city leaders, business people, planners, and residents; and informal green spaces created by urban renewal, population declines, and home abandonment since the 1950s.

To Educate and Elevate: The African American Press in Missouri

The African American Press has a long history of agency and activism. Dating its founding from 1827 with the publication of Freedom’s Journal in New York, the press has a legacy of protest and a history of the struggle for survival. Between 1875 and 1970, Missouri was home to more than 60 black-owned newspapers. Debra Foster Greene looks at the lives and works of several African American newspaper publishers and editors in the Show-Me State.

Lincoln University: Black Culture Mecca of the Midwest

Gary R. Kremer explores the history of Lincoln University from its founding by former Missouri slaves in 1866 through its emergence as a state-funded normal and vocational school to its establishment as the state’s only public institution of higher education for African Americans in 1921. Special attention is given to Lincoln University’s “golden years,” from 1921 through the mid-1950s, when it was often referred to as the “Black Harvard of the Midwest.”

Citizen Brown: Race, Democracy, and Inequality in the St. Louis Suburbs

In his path-breaking book Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City, Colin Gordon combined GIS digital mapping techniques with extensive archival research to reach new perspectives on St. Louis’s decades-long struggles with depopulation, segregation, economic disparity, and urban decay. Gordon's current research continues to probe for deeper understanding of the underlying issues and failed policies behind urban crises such as the turmoil in Ferguson after Michael Brown was shot and killed by local police on August 9, 2014.

Making their Marks: Voice and Violence in Colonial St. Louis

In histories of colonial St. Louis, people of African descent appear most often as enslaved men and women forced into doing the hard labor of settlement. Traces of their existence are visible in records relating to slave auctions and census documents enumerating their presence in households, but the fabric of their daily lives can be difficult to recover. Patricia Cleary, author of The World, the Flesh, and the Devil: A History of Colonial St. Louis, will illuminate the vital roles African Americans played in the early village on the Mississippi, exploring how they experienced violence and expressed themselves in a community frequently torn by discord and unrest.

Margaret Bush Wilson and the Promise of America: A Pragmatic Civil Rights Vision

Priscilla Dowden-White explores the life and legacy of St. Louis attorney and NAACP leader Margaret Bush Wilson. In her lifelong struggle to advance freedom and equality for African Americans, women, and all those who were excluded from the mainstream of society, Wilson blazed a courageous trail marked by landmark legal decisions and major civil rights advances that opened doors to equal opportunity for all. Dowden-White examines the philosophical viewpoints and experiences that shaped Wilson’s definition of justice and fairness for all.

Troubling Freedom: Black Working-Class Women's Self-Organization and the Struggle for Racial Justice in St. Louis before the 1960s

From the Great Depression to the 1960s, the city of St. Louis experienced significant decline as its population and industrial base stagnated while its suburbs expanded. To combat ingrained racism, crippling levels of poverty, and substandard living conditions, black women workers in St. Louis formed a community-based culture of resistance, fighting for fair and full employment, a living wage, affordable housing, political leadership, and personal dignity. Keona K. Ervin, author of the award-winning Gateway to Equality: Black Women and the Struggle for Economic Justice in St. Louis, discusses how black women effectively grounded working-class struggle in movements for racial justice and set the stage for the defining campaigns of the explosive 1960s.

Remembering the Ste. Genevieve Race Riot of 1930: Historical Memory and the Expulsion of African Americans from a Small Missouri Town

Patrick Huber, professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology, presents his work on the Ste. Genevieve Race Riot of 1930. The riot was a four day disturbance, long shrouded in secrecy, during which vigilantes drove away most of the town’s black residents, many of whom were recent arrivals recruited to work in local lime kilns and stone quarries.