The story of the African American experience in Missouri is told through the personal papers of individuals and families as well as the records of black organizations and churches. Civil War pensions shed light on the aftermath of the war, while photographs, letters, scrapbooks, writings, and newspapers provide insight into the daily life of African Americans living in the state. The State Historical Society of Missouri is pleased to make available these rich resources that document their lives as Missourians.
The resources on this page have been adapted from a chapter of the book Race and Meaning: The African American Experience in Missouri by Gary Kremer. If you have suggestions for other resources for African American research in Missouri, please email them to us at email@example.com.
Since the first French settlers came to the region we know now as Missouri in the 1700s, African Americans have played a substantial role in the state's history. Initially brought here as slaves to work in the mines of southeast Missouri, they also served as farm laborers, servants, seamstresses, nursemaids, cooks, and common laborers. A small number of free blacks also lived in Missouri during the antebellum period, concentrated primarily in St. Louis. During the latter years of the Civil War, thousands of African Americans joined the Union war effort as a way of gaining their own personal freedom, but also as a way of ending slavery in the state and nation.
With freedom came new struggles. As a border state settled largely by emigrants from the South, Missouri remained very racially divided in the Post-Civil War era, well into the twentieth century. Civil rights leaders such as James Milton Turner fought for educational opportunity as well as full rights of citizenship for freedmen, while black residents of communities such as Pennytown, Morocco, and Eldridge sought to escape oppression and seek economic opportunity through the solidarity of numbers. African Americans created their own schools, churches and fraternal and sisterhood organizations as a way of taking control of their lives and their futures.
Missouri's two major cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, attracted large numbers of Great Migration migrants during the era of World War I through World War II. Black suburbs such as Kinloch in St. Louis and Leeds in Kansas City emerged as important transitional communities that helped rural African Americans adjust to urban life. Thanks to educational opportunities offered by all-black Lincoln Institute (later Lincoln University), African Americans began entering a variety of professions as scientists, businesspeople, educators, musicians, entertainers, writers, and athletes. They also founded their own newspapers such as the Kansas City Call, the St. Louis American, the Weekly Conservator (Sedalia), and the Professional World (Columbia). Lawsuits brought by students such as Lloyd Gaines and Lucile Bluford paved the way for African Americans to attend the University of Missouri, while the St. Louis-based Shelley v. Kraemer case (1948) challenged racial segregation in neighborhoods throughout the state and nation.
During the Civil Rights Era, African Americans intensified their fight for the same rights held by whites. Civil Rights organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban League, the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, and, later, the Congress on Racial Equality led the way as African Americans and their supporters sought to integrate schools, restaurants, hotels, restrooms, and other public spaces.
- Atherton, Lewis E. "Life, Labor, and Society in Boone County, Missouri, 1834-1852, As Revealed in the Correspondence of an Immigrant Slave Owning Family from North Carolina."
Part 1: Missouri Historical Review 38, no. 3 (April 1944): 277-304.
Part 2: Missouri Historical Review 38, no. 4 (July 1944): 408-429.
- Baltimore, Lester B. "Benjamin F. Stringfellow: The Fight for Slavery on the Missouri Border."
Missouri Historical Review 62, no. 1(October 1967): 14-29.
- Bellamy, Donnie D. "Free Blacks in Antebellum Missouri, 1820-1860."
Missouri Historical Review 67, no. 2 (January 1973): 198-226.
- Bierbaum, Milton E. "Frederick Starr. A Missouri Border Abolitionist: The Making of a Martyr."
Missouri Historical Review 58, no. 3 (April 1964): 309-325.
- Blassingame, John W. "The Recruitment of Negro Troops In Missouri During The Civil War."
Missouri Historical Review 58, no. 3 (April 1964): 326-337.
- Bogle, Lori. "Desegregation in a Border State: The Example of Joplin, Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 85, no. 4 (July 1991): 422-440.
- Bowen, Elbert R. "Negro Minstrels in Early Rural Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 47, no. 2 (January 1953): 103-109.
- Christensen, Lawrence. "Black Education in Civil War St. Louis."
Missouri Historical Review, 95, no. 3 (April 2001): 302-316.
"J. Milton Turner: An Appraisal."
Missouri Historical Review 70, no. 1 (October 1975): 1-19.
"Race Relations in St. Louis 1865-1916."
Missouri Historical Review 78, no. 2 (January 1984): 123-136.
"Schools for Blacks: J. Milton Turner in Reconstruction Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 76, no. 2 (January 1982): 121-135.
"The Popular Image of Blacks vs. the Birthrights."
Missouri Historical Review 81, no. 1 (October 1986): 37-52.
"William D. Swinney: Howard County Slaveholder and Entrepreneur."
Missouri Historical Review 108, no. 4 (July 2014): 236-252.
- Cunningham, Roger D. "Kansas City's African American 'Immunes' in the Spanish-American War."
Missouri Historical Review 100, no. 3 (April 2006): 141-158.
- Dunson, A.A. "Notes on the Missouri Germans on Slavery."
Missouri Historical Review 59, no. 3 (April 1965): 355-366.
- Dyer, Thomas G. "'A Most Unexampled Exhibition of Madness and Brutality': Judge Lynch in Saline County, Missouri, 1859."
Part 1: Missouri Historical Review 89, no. 3,(April 1995): 269-289.
Part 2. Missouri Historical Review 89, no. 4,(July 1995): 367-383.
- Efford, Alison Clark. "Race Should be as Unimportant as Ancestry: German Radicals and African American Citizenship in the Missouri Constitution of 1865."
Missouri Historical Review 104, no. 3 (April 2010): 138-158.
- Erlich, Walter. "Was the Dred Scott Case Valid?"
Missouri Historical Review 63, no. 3 (April 1969): 317-328.
- Fellman, Michael "Emancipation in Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 83 (October 1988): 36-56.
- Fly, David Kerrigan. "An Episcopal Priest's Reflections on the Kansas City Riot of 1968."
Missouri Historical Review 100, no. 2 (January 2006): 103-112.
- Frizzell, Robert W. "Southern Identity in Nineteenth-Century Missouri: Little Dixie's Slave-Majority Areas and the Transition to Midwestern Farming."
Missouri Historical Review 99, no. 3 (April 2005): 238-260.
- Gollar, C. Walker. "St. Louis University Slaves."
Missouri Historical Review 105, no. 3 (April 2011): 125-140.
- Green, Barbara. "Slave Labor at The Maramec Iron Works, 1828-1850."
Missouri Historical Review 73, no. 2 (January 1979): 150-164.
- Greene, Lorenzo J. "Lincoln University's Involvement with the Sharecropper Demonstration in Southeast Missouri, 1939-1940."
Missouri Historical Review 82, no. 1 (October 1987): 24-50.
- Grenz, Suzanna M. "The Exodusters of 1879: St. Louis and Kansas City Responses."
Missouri Historical Review 73, no. 1 (October 1978): 54-70.
- Grothaus, Larry. "Kansas City Blacks, Harry Truman and the Pendergast Machine."
Missouri Historical Review 69, no. 1 (October 1974): 65-82.
- Harper, Kimberly. "Like a Tug of War": The Lynching of Thomas Gilyard."
Missouri Historical Review 105, no. 2 (January 2011): 76-93.
- Holland, Antonio, Gary R. Kremer, ed. "Some Aspects of Black Education in Reconstruction Missouri: An Address by Richard B. Foster."
Missouri Historical Review 92, no. 4 (July 1998): 407-420.
- Huber, Patrick J. and Gary R. Kremer. "Nathaniel C. Bruce, Black Education and the 'Tuskegee of the Midwest.'"
Missouri Historical Review 86, no. 1 (October 1991): 37-54.
- Hughes, John Starrett. "Lafayette County and the Aftermath of Slavery, 1861-1870."
Missouri Historical Review 75, no. 1 (October 1980): 51-63.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. "Planters and Slavery in Little Dixie."
Missouri Historical Review 88, no. 4 (July 1994): 397-415.
- Kremer, Gary R. "Background to Apostasy: James Milton Turner and the Republican Party."
Missouri Historical Review 71, no. 1 (October 1976): 59-75.
"Just Like the Garden of Eden: African-American Community Life in Kansas City's Leeds."
Missouri Historical Review 98, no. 2 (January 2004): 121-144.
"The Abraham Lincoln Legacy in Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 103, no. 2 (January 2009): 108-119
"The Black People Did the Work": African American Life in Arrow Rock, Missouri, 1850-1960."
Missouri Historical Review 106, no. 4 (July 2012): 223-240.
"The World of Make-Believe: James Milton Turner and Black Masonry."
Missouri Historical Review 74, no. 1 (October 1979): 50-71.
"William J. Thompkins: African American Physician, Politician, and Publisher."
Missouri Historical Review 101, no. 3 (April 2007): 168-182.
- Kremer, Gary R. and Cindy M. Mackey. "'Yours for the Race: The Life and Work of Josephine Silone Yates."
Missouri Historical Review, 90, no. 2 (January 1996): 199-215.
- Kremer, Gary R. and Evan P. Orr "Lake Placid: A Recreational Center for Colored People in the Missouri Ozarks.'"
Missouri Historical Review 95, no. 1 (October 2000): 68-85.
- Laughlin, Bonnie E. "'Endangering the Peace of Society': Abolitionist Agitation and Mob Reaction in St. Louis and Alton, 1836-1838."
Missouri Historical Review 95, no. 1(October 2000): 1-22.
- Lee, Bill R. "Missouri's Fight over Emancipation in 1863."
Missouri Historical Review 45, no. 3 (April 1951): 256-274.
- Lee, George R. "Slavery and Emancipation in Lewis County, Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 65, no. 3 (April 1971): 294-317.
- Lowenfish, Lee. "A Consistent Player and a Consistent Christian': The Midwestern Roots of Branch Rickey's Idealism and Racial Progressivism, 1904-1942."
Missouri Historical Review 102, no. 2 (January 2008): 78-87.
- McGettigan, James William, Jr. "Boone County Slaves: Sales, Estate Divisions and Families, 1820-1865."
Part 1: Missouri Historical Review 72, no. 2 (January 1978): 176-197.
Part 2: Missouri Historical Review 72, no. 3 (April 1978): 271-295.
- Merkel, Benjamin C. "The Slavery Issue and the Political Decline of Thomas Hart Benton, 1846-1856."
Missouri Historical Review 38, no. 4 (July 1944): 388-407.
- Miller, Chandra. "Title Page to a Great Tragic Volume": The Impact of the Missouri Crisis on Slavery, Race, and Republicanism in the Thought of John C. Calhoun and John Quincy Adams."
Missouri Historical Review 94, no. 4 (July 2000) pp. 365-388.
- Moore, W.K. "An Abortive Slave Uprising."
Missouri Historical Review 52, no. 2 (January 1958):123-126.
- Naglich, Dennis. "The Slave System and the Civil War in Rural Prairieville."
Missouri Historical Review 87, no. 3 (April 1993): 253-273.
- Navarro, Jason. "Under Penalty of Death: Pierce City's Night of Racial Terror."
Missouri Historical Review 100, no. 3 (April 2006): 87-102.
- Nelson, Earl J. "Missouri Slavery, 1861-1865."
Missouri Historical Review 28, no. 4 (July 1934): 260-274.
- Olson, Greg. "Slave, Trader, Interpreter, and World Traveler: The Remarkable Story of Jeffrey Deroine."
Missouri Historical Review 107, no. 4 (July 2013): 222-230.
- Phillips, Christopher. "Judge Napton's Private War: Slavery, Personal Tragedy, and the Politics of Identity in Civil War-Era Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 99, no. 3 (April 2005): 212-237.
- Piehl, Charles K. "The Race of Improvement: Springfield Society, 1865-1881."
Missouri Historical Review 67, no. 4 (July 1973): 484-521.
- Rhodes, Joel. P. "It Finally Happened Here: The 1968 Riot in Kansas City, Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 91, no. 3 (April 1997): 295-315.
- Richardson, Joe M. "The American Missionary Association and Black Education in Civil War Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 69, no. 4 (July 1975): 433-448.
- Roberts, Katie. ""I Plant Myself….Down on My Unquestionable Rights": Elijah Lovejoy's Fatal Stand for Freedom."
Missouri Historical Review 101, no. 1 (October 2006): 48-
- Ryle, Walter H. "Slavery and Party Realignment in Missouri in the State Election of 1856."
Missouri Historical Review 39, no. 3 (April 1945): 320-332.
- Sarvis, Will. "Black Electoral Power in the Missouri Bootheel, 1920s-1960s."
Missouri Historical Review 95, no. 2 (January 2001): 182-202.
- Scarpino, Philip V. "Slavery in Callaway County, Missouri: 1845-1855."
Part 1: Missouri Historical Review 71, no. 1 (October 1976): 22-43.
Part 2. Missouri Historical Review 71, no. 3 (April 1977): 266-283.
- Schreck, Kimberly A. "The Patriarch, His "Wives," His "Slaves," and His "Children": Contested Wills in the Case of Keen v. Keen."
Missouri Historical Review 102, no. 1 (October 2007): 25-41.
- Slavens, George. "The Missouri Negro Press, 1875-1920."
Missouri Historical Review 64, no. 4 (July 1970): 413-431.
- Strickland, Arvarh E. "Aspects of Slavery in Missouri, 1821."
Missouri Historical Review 65, no. 4 (July 1971): 505-526.
"The Plight of the People in the Sharecroppers' Demonstration in Southeast Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 81, no. 4 (July 1987): 403-416.
"Toward the Promised Land: The Exodus to Kansas and Afterward."
Missouri Historical Review 69, no. 4 (July 1975): 376-412.
- Wamble, G. Hugh. "Negroes and Missouri Protestant Churches."
Missouri Historical Review 61, no. 3 (April 1967): 321-347.
- Willoughby, Robert J. "'I'll Wade in Missouri Blood': Daggs v. Frazier: A Case of Missouri Runaway Slaves."
Missouri Historical Review 99, no. 2 (January 2005): 115-138.
- Wilson, Thomas D. "Chester A. Franklin and Harry S. Truman: An African-American Conservative and the 'Conversion' of the Future President."
Missouri Historical Review 88, no. 1 (October 1993): 48-77.
- Woolsey, Ronald C. "The Debate over Slavery on the Eve of the Charleston Convention."
Missouri Historical Review 82, no. 1 (October 1987): 1-23.
"The West Becomes a Problem: The Missouri Controversy and Slavery Expansion as the Southern Dilemma."
Missouri Historical Review 77, no. 4 (July 1983): 409-432.
The African American Experience in Missouri digital collection includes digitized manuscripts by or about African Americans, including personal papers, records of black organizations and churches, collections with significant information on African Americans, civil rights, slavery, and daily life.
The State Historical Society of Missouri manuscript collections include material by or about African Americans, including personal papers, records of black organizations and churches, collections with significant information on African Americans, civil rights, slavery, and daily life.
SHSMO's newspaper collection contains about thirty African American publications. The St. Louis Advance perhaps established as early as 1881, is one of the earliest known black newspapers published in Missouri. Most of the state's African-American newspapers have been published in Kansas City and St. Louis, but Caruthersville, Charleston, Hannibal, Jefferson City, Joplin, Sedalia and Sikeston have also served as the home of African American newspapers.
In these newspapers, researchers can find national and local news of interest to the African American community and prominently featured ads for black businesses. The Kansas City Call, established in 1919, is one of several black newspapers currently being published. At a time when many local papers printed few items of interest to the black community or omitted such coverage altogether, The Call tried to fill the gap. News about small black Missouri communities often found a place in the pages of The Call. Today its coverage is more local, highlighting Kansas City and the surrounding area.
Religious African American newspapers among SHSMO's holdings include The Western Messenger, later known as the Baptist Record, first published in Jefferson City, then in St. Louis and finally in Kansas City. The Western Christian Recorder established in 1891 as the official organ of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was published in Kansas City. Sedalia was the home of The Searchlight, published for the members of the United Brothers of Friendship and Sisters of Mysterious Ten Lodge.
African-American Newspapers in SHSMO Holdings
|County||City||Title||Also Available On||Date Range|
|Boone||Columbia||Blackout||Microfilm||Nov 20, 1969|
|Boone||Columbia||Professional World||Microfilm||1901-1903; 1909 (incomplete)|
|Cole||Jefferson City||The Lincoln Clarion||Microfilm||1935-1975|
|Cole||Jefferson City||Western Messenger||Microfilm||1914-1916|
|Greene||Springfield||The American Negro||Hard Copy Only||Oct 25, 1890|
|Jackson||Kansas City||Baptist Record||Microfilm||1921 (incomplete)|
|Jackson||Kansas City||Globe||Microfilm||1994-Present (some earlier)|
|Jackson||Kansas City||Inter-State Herald||Microfilm||1903-1904 (incomplete)|
|Jackson||Kansas City||Missouri State Post||Microfilm||1987-1988; 1990-1992 (incomplete)|
|Jackson||Kansas City||Rising Son||Microfilm||1903-1907|
|Jackson||Kansas City||Son||Microfilm||Dec 7, 1912|
|Jackson||Kansas City||Western Christian Recorder||Microfilm||1911-1915|
|Jackson||Kansas City||Western Messenger||Microfilm||1918-1920 (incomplete)|
|Jasper||Jopin||Uplift||Hard Copy Only||May 24, 1928|
|Jasper||Jopin||The Joplin-Springfield Uplift||Hard Copy Only||Apr 11, 1930|
|Marion||Hannibal||Home Protective Record||Microfilm||1914 (some single issues)|
|Mississippi||Charleston||Spokesman||Microfilm||Aug 1934 (incomplete)|
|Pemiscot||Caruthersville||The Anchor||Microfilm||Jul-Aug 1921 (incomplete)|
|Pettis||Sedalia||Weekly Conservator||Microfilm||1905-1908 (incomplete)|
|Pettis||Sedalia||U.B.F. and S.M.T. Searchlight||Hard Copy Only||Oct 8, 1910|
|Pettis||Sedalia||The Searchlight||Hard Copy Only||Feb 28, 1914|
|Pettis||Sedalia||Times||Microfilm||1901-1903; 1905 (incomplete)|
|Scott||Sikeston||Southeast Missouri World||Microfilm||Nov 25, 1939|
|Scott||Sikeston||Southern Sun||Hard Copy Only||1954 (some single issues)|
|St. Louis||The American Eagle||Hard Copy Only||Dec 17, 1905; Aug 11, 1906|
|St. Louis||Argus||Microfilm||1915-1997 (incomplete)|
|St. Louis||St. Louis Evening Whirl||Hard Copy Only||2013-Present (some earlier)|
|St. Louis||St. Louis Advance||Hard Copy Only||Jun 13, 1908|
|St. Louis||Western Messenger||Microfilm||1916-1917 (incomplete)|
- Politics in Missouri Oral History Project, Records, 1996-, (C3929)
Contains scores of interviews that date to the mid-1990s. In many instances, these interviews deal with topics of racial history, including struggles over civil rights legislation. Many of these interviews have been transcribed and can be accessed online.
Among the interviews in this collection is one with State Representative Elbert Walton Jr. from St. Louis. The collection also includes interviews with brothers Roy Cooper Jr. and Alex Cooper, two members of one of the most prominent and well-known African American families of the southeastern Missouri delta.
- Kansas City Monarchs Oral History Collection, 1978-1981, (K0047)
This collection contains oral history interviews and related correspondence with eighteen individuals who played with or were associated with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro National League.
- Kansas City Jazz Oral History Collection, 1977-1980, (K0012)
Contains audio recordings and transcriptions of interviews with jazz musicians who played in Kansas City during the "Golden Age of Jazz," roughly the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s.
- Missouri Desegregation and Civil Rights Oral History Project, Records, 2013, (C4116)
The collection consists of interviews with people who attended Douglass and/or Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri. The collection consists of digitally recorded interviews, audio logs, and photographs. The collection is ongoing and open to interviews concerning any school and/or civil rights topic in Missouri.
An abundance of relatively new and often easily accessible sources are available to twenty-first-century scholars of the African American experience in Missouri.
Missouri State Archives
- Supreme Court of Missouri Historical Records
Access to the Dred Scott opinion rendered by the Missouri Supreme Court, along with many other race-related Missouri Supreme Court cases.
- Freedom Suits Case Files, 1814-1860
St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project
One of the resulting collections from a joint project by the Missouri State Archives and the St. Louis Circuit Court. These case files include, not surprisingly, the most famous freedom suit of all, that of the slave Dred Scott, but they also include more than three hundred others, among them the case of Winny v. Phebe Whitesides, an early nineteenth-century case begun in 1819, two years before Missouri statehood.
- Coroner's Inquest Database
Records as obscure as "Coroners' Inquests," likewise, can provide insight into important historical events. Using the name William Lyons, a researcher can find information that will take him or her to Case No. 738, a case in which William Shelton (aka Stagger Lee) killed Billie Lyons in December 1895. The coroner's report of this case closely parallels the narrative that formed the foundation for the American classic, the "Ballad of Stagger Lee."
- Government Documents Collection
There are a number of state records groups available in their original hard-copy format in the collection. These include the reports to the legislature of the Missouri Negro Industrial Commission, a state agency created in February 1918 by Governor Frederick D. Gardner. The commission originally came into being at the request of African-American leaders in Missouri who wanted to empower the state's black population to contribute to the war effort by buying and selling war bonds. They also wanted to improve agricultural production and food conservation among African-American farmers and consumers.
Missouri Digital Heritage Initiative
A number of federal records have become available recently that provide exciting possibilities for adding to our understanding of the African American experience in Missouri. In particular, these records provide glimpses into such topics as the recruitment of African Americans into the Union Army, the treatment of "Contrabands" (that is, slaves captured by Union soldiers), the theft and confiscation of slaves, and the physical treatment (or mistreatment) of slaves.
- State of Missouri vs. Celia, a slave
- Union Provost Marshal Papers, 1861–1866
- Union Provost Marshals' File of Papers Relating to Two or More Civilians
State Historic Preservation Office (DNR)
- National Register Nominations by Missouri County
These nominations provide in-depth research on specific structures still standing in Missouri, along with supportive data that document why those buildings are deemed eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
Examples related to African-American history
- A Sampling of Architectural Surveys
Among these surveys is one titled "African-American Schools in Rural and Small Town Missouri." The purpose of this survey, conducted by historians Gary R. Kremer and Brett Rogers, was to identify and describe buildings still standing in the state that once housed segregated African-American schools. The survey, funded jointly by William Woods University and the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office, includes hundreds of pages of narrative, photographs, maps, and summations of oral histories collected and produced between 1999 and 2002. The full text of the survey may be accessed at the following links:
County Courthouses and City Halls
- Probate court records
It is very common to find posters in these records advertising the sale of slaves, including in some cases children as young as one and two years old. The May 1861 case of Benjamin W. Smithson of Cedar County, for example, lists two African-American girls on the estate inventory and documents that Mr. Smithson's widow gave Colonel James Johnson power of attorney to hire out a slave named Mariah. Likewise, Franklin County Probate Court Records document what happened to the thirteen slaves of Valentine Hunter, who died in 1850.
- Circuit court records
The vast majority of circuit court case records remain undigitized and are housed in courthouses in the counties in which the cases originally occurred. These cases are as diverse as they are fascinating; they provide a great deal of insight into every era of Missouri history.
The Callaway County case of State of Missouri v. Celia is an exception. This case, which documents the circumstances surrounding the 1850s instance of a young slave woman (Celia) who killed her master after being sexually abused by him for years, was recently digitized and can be found online here (UMKC) and here (Missouri State Archives). Ultimately Celia was executed, after a judge refused to accept her attorney's effort at a self-defense plea and after an all-white jury, half of whose members were slave owners, found her guilty of capital murder. This circuit court case served as the foundation and principal source of Melton A. McLaurin's highly acclaimed 1991 book, Celia: A Slave.
- Local public records
Arguably, the most significant "new" research materials available to scholars of African-American history in Missouri are the countless local public records housed in the state's courthouses and city halls. Always present but not widely accessible until the emergence of the Missouri State Archives' Local Records Program during the early 1990s, this material has been unearthed, rescued, and made available by local records archivists who work in this program.
- Post-Civil War pension records
Another federal record group that holds great promise for scholars of Missouri's black history, especially African-American women's history, is the collection of pension records compiled by the federal government in the wake of post–Civil War congressional action aimed at ensuring "that the widows and children of colored soldiers" receive pensions earned by the roughly hundred thousand African-American soldiers who served in the Union cause during the Civil War. As historian Noralee Frankel pointed out in a 1997 article in Prologue, "It was the complicated procedures involved in documenting nonlegal slave marriages that make these pension records so rich for women's and family history". Historian Dianne Mutti Burke pointed the way for Missouri scholars in the use of these records in her book, On Slavery's Border.
- Federal census
Federal census returns are extremely helpful in documenting black life, especially the 1940 federal census, which lists, among other things, the occupations of individuals, as well as the amount of money they had earned over the previous twelve months. This census also indicates whether individuals listed had changed residences over the previous five years.
Archives, Libraries, and Museums
Missouri History Museum
- Slaves and Slavery Collection
This collection contains nearly a hundred items, including receipts for sales of slaves, deeds of emancipation, personal correspondence, and broadsides advertising rewards for the capture and return of runaway slaves.
- Guide to Civil War Manuscripts in the Missouri Historical Society Archives
This guide evidences the presence of a number of documents pertaining to African American soldiers from Missouri during the Civil War.
- Charles Turner Scrapbooks (1886–1918)
Contains newspaper clippings, political flyers and handbills, business cards, and photographs of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century African American life in St. Louis. This collection is especially strong in materials pertaining to what was known as the Market Street Black Business District.
National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis
- African-American Life in St. Louis, 1804–1865
Bob Moore at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, in conjunction with Missouri State Archives local records archivist Mike Everman and a bevy of interns, has developed this site. Among the items on this site are lists of the freedom suits, lists of emancipations through the circuit courts, lists/database of free Negro licenses through the county court, and lists/database of slave auctions through the St. Louis Probate Court.
St. Louis County Libraries
- Julius K. Hunter and Friends African-American Research Collection
Although this collection contains much material beyond the borders of Missouri, it is still useful for students of Missouri history. This collection was created in 2000 and can be accessed online.
- Descriptive Recruitment Lists of Volunteers for the United States Colored Troops for the State of Missouri, 1863–1865
Kansas City Public Library
- Black Archives Oral History Collection
The material in this collection was produced through a grant-funded collaboration between the Kansas City Public Library and the Black Archives of Mid-America. It features oral histories with fifty-six individuals, primarily African Americans, whose stories shed light on the black experience in Kansas City during the mid-twentieth century. The interviews were conducted in 1975 and 1976.
- John Ramos Collection
Missouri Valley Special Collections
The origins of this collection date to 1926 when W. R. Howell, a history teacher at the all-black Lincoln High School in Kansas City, and Priscilla Hurd, a librarian at the Kansas City Library's Lincoln Branch, began to assemble material by and about Kansas City African Americans. The Lincoln Branch closed in 1971 and the collection moved to the Kansas City Public Library. Subsequently, the collection was named in honor of Dr. John Ramos Jr., the first African American elected (1961) to serve on the Kansas City Board of Education.
Black Archives of Mid-America
Located in Kansas City, Missouri, the Black Archives has a number of collections that document that city's rich African American heritage. With the exception of some photographs, the bulk of these materials are not available online, however. One of the largest of the collections housed at the Black Archives—and arguably, one of the most important—is the one that contains the papers of Chester A. and Ada Crogman Franklin, longtime owners and publishers of The Call, Kansas City's important African-American newspaper. The Franklins published this newspaper from 1919 until Ada Franklin died in 1983.