Available Speakers

Missouri Speakers Bureau

The Missouri Speaker Bureau is jointly organized and managed by the Missouri Humanities Council and the State Historical Society of Missouri. The purpose of the Missouri Speakers Bureau is to promote humanities education throughout the state of Missouri. If your civic organization, museum, historical society, library, or similar institution or group is looking for an expert to give a presentation on a topic related to the history, culture, geography, and/or people of Missouri, we hope you will consider what this program has to offer.

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Brooks Blevins

Missouri State University
About the Speaker

Brooks Blevins is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University in Springfield. He is a native of the Ozarks, tracing his roots deep into the antebellum era in both Arkansas and Missouri. He has written seven books and edited three more. His most recent books are A History of the Ozarks, Volume I: The Old Ozarks and A History of the Ozarks, Volume 2: The Conflicted Ozarks, the first two books of a trilogy on the history of the region.

How to Talk Ozark in Seven Simple Steps

This lighthearted presentation explores early ethnic and cultural influences on the Ozarks through the lens of dialect and accent. It dismisses the old notion of Elizabethan dialect in the Ozarks and instead looks at words, phrases, and speech patterns that were once common in vernacular Ozark (and usually Appalachian) language, tracing their origins to European or colonial American roots. The presentation invites frequent audience participation and includes a built-in “Talking Ozark” quiz. Natives or longtime residents of the Ozarks will enjoy revisiting styles and words that have probably gone unused for decades, and others will gain an appreciation for cultural diffusion and regional distinctiveness in Missouri—as well as the forces that constantly chip away at that distinctiveness.

Blue Coats, Yellow Dogs, and Red Maps: A History of Politics in the Ozarks

In recent years the Ozark region has become a dependably red (Republican) block in presidential elections, but that wasn't always the case. Historian Brooks Blevins introduces audiences to the grand scope of political history in the region, from the days of Jacksonian Democracy before the Civil War to Donald Trump's overwhelming clean sweep of the region in 2016. Blevins illustrates events that changed the region's political loyalties: from the conflict of the Civil War war era that divided the Missouri Ozarks into Republican and Democrat sections, through the contentious days of populism in the late 19th-century, to late 20th-century developments that made the Ozarks more politically homogeneous. Along the way audiences will meet colorful political figures from Ozarks history, including one-time presidential hopeful "Silver Dick" Bland and brilliant orator and New Deal opponent Dewey Short.

Kathleen Boswell

Katy Depot
About the Speaker

Kathleen Boswell loves to make a role her own. After dozens of portrayals of the aunt of Whiteman Air Force Base namesake George Whiteman, she began tackling the story of her favorite author, Laura Ingall Wilder. Even her husband doesn't recognize her in costume and friends have remarked, "After two minutes, we forgot it was you and were along for the ride."

Sincerely Yours, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder spent over sixty years of her life in Missouri, writing her famous Little House on the Prairie series while living on Rocky Ridge Farm outside of Mansfield. Wilder was proud of her farm, which sustained her family through the loss of their life savings during the Great Depression. Her early articles in farm publications provide insight into her life and the struggle made bearable because of her childhood experiences. Wilder had a deep faith that guided her through hard times.

Boswell's presentation explores why Wilder wrote her famous series and her life after the last volume. It's a story of "making do," as Wilder did, pulling herself up through hard work. Set in 1947, when Wilder was 80 and her husband Almanzo Wilder was still alive, it is an inspiring story for young and old alike.

George's Aunt Mildred

A compelling account of a life lost too soon, the story of Army Air Corps Second Lieutenant George Whiteman is told from the perspective of his Aunt Mildred.

A native of Sedalia, Whiteman graduated high school at 15 and started college in Rolla before joining the Army Air Corps in 1940. As part of the Air Corps, Whiteman achieved his lifelong dream of learning to fly. Whiteman was stationed at Hickam Base in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, when the plane he was piloting was shot down by Japanese gunfire. Whiteman is considered to be the first American pilot killed in World War II. His mother's comment to a local newspaper, "It can happen anywhere, anytime," has been adopted as the motto of the 340th bomber wing based at Whiteman Air Force Base, named for George Whiteman.

Buffalo Soldiers

Alexander/Madison Chapter of the Kansas City Area
About the Speaker

Two decorated Army veterans and Buffalo Soldiers co-founded what is today the 9th & 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association on July 28, 1966. This national organization was formed in the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District in Kansas City, Missouri. Today, after 50+ years, it is the oldest such chapter in the nation. The Alexander/Madison Chapter of KC Buffalo Soldiers is headed by its second president, certified oral storyteller John "JR" Bruce, a veteran and a recipient of the Bronze Star for Valor. Bruce is joined by two other presenters: George Pettigrew, great-grandson of original Buffalo Soldier Isaac Johnson who enlisted May 6, 1867 at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri; and Donna Madison, daughter of co-founder James Madison, and a certified oral storyteller who portrays Cathy Williams, the only woman to serve with the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buffalo Soldiers: From Slave to Soldier

The American military leads society in social change. The Buffalo Soldiers represents the most amazing human story of the journey from slave to soldier in American history. Educational messages in well researched stories of how the black soldiers became Buffalo Soldiers and little known major contributions to settling the western frontier. Meet Cathy Williams a female Buffalo Soldier in the Indian Wars. The Buffalo Soldier heritage in Cuba, WWI and WWII including the Tuskegee Airmen and the first National Park Rangers. All presentations are in period costumes.

Mara Wendy Cohen Ioannides

Missouri State University
About the Speaker

Mara W. Cohen Ioannides teaches in the English Department at Missouri State University and is the president of the Midwest Jewish Studies Association. She has edited the only published volume on the history of the Jews of the Ozarks and has published nearly a dozen articles, book chapters, and books on the Jews of America, the Jews of the Midwest, and the Jews of the Ozarks. She is the authority on Jews of the Ozarks.

How Jews Helped Create Missouri

This presentation will examine the history of Jews in the state from the very first before the Louisiana Purchase through the First World War. Jews were in just about every township in the state had an influence on the development of the state.

Jews of the Ozarks

This presentation shows the long history of Jews in the Ozarks and how they helped develop the region. Jews arrived early in the history of the region and had a large impact on its development.

Samuel Cohen

University of Missouri
About the Speaker

Samuel Cohen is an award-winning teacher and scholar of American literature at the University of Missouri, where he teaches twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature and culture. He is author of After the End of History: American Fiction in the 1990s and co-editor of The Legacy of David Foster Wallace and The Clash Takes on the World: Transnational Perspectives on the Only Band That Matters. He is Series Editor of The New American Canon: The Iowa Series in Contemporary Literature and Culture and author of the textbooks 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology and Literature: The Human Experience.

The Missouri Crisis

The Missouri Crisis is the name that has been given to the turmoil the U.S. was thrown into by Missouri's application for statehood. The tensions that emerged in that crisis existed not only in Missouri but across the nation, and their suppression and reemergence in the Civil War mark a pattern that continues today. Missouri history–from the Crisis early in the 19th century to the crisis in Ferguson early in the 21st century–is marked by these tensions, and those marks are visible in the literature of Missouri. Examining a range of works by Missouri writers, this talk will explore not only the history and literary history of the state but also the future of Missouri as a place to live in and write about.

The State of the State: Missouri Writers on Missouri

This talk engages the things writers from Missouri have had to say about the state of their state. Writers such as the first African American novelist, Williams Wells Brown, Mark Twain, T. S. Eliot, Tennessee Williams, Maya Angelou, Calvin Trillin, and many other essayists, novelists, poets, and playwrights who have hailed from Missouri have had a lot to say about it. As a state that has been implicated in so much of American history, that is home to the last Eastern city and the first Western one, that has been shaped by people from France, Spain and Germany as well as Boston, Kentucky, and the people who were here before all of them, there is much about Missouri that is informed by and connects to the rest of the country and the world. The course of the nation, of its political realities and aspirations, of its expansion westward and its foreign entanglements, all of these developments have marked Missouri, and as they have done so they have provided fuel for the work of a great and varied group of writers. Ultimately, their work can itself be read as providing a composite portrait of their state.

Stephen Sharp Davis

St. Louis
About the Speaker

Stephen S. Davis graduated from Brigham Young University in 1995 and the University of Missouri School of Law in 1999. The Missouri House of Representatives twice elected Steve as its Chief Clerk and Administrator. Steve has also served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. Currently, Steve is a federal litigator practicing with True North Law, LLC. Steve also served as Missouri Election Day Operations Director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Steve met his wife, Cara, when they both worked for Senator Orrin Hatch. They and their four children live in St. Louis.

“Mormonising” Political and Religious Opposition in Nineteenth-Century Missouri

Antebellum Missouri was a different place than the Missouri we now know. Attorney Steve Davis will reveal a little-known facet of Missouri history that will likely surprise listeners. Missouri’s state motto is “Salus Populi Supreme Lex Esto,” the welfare of the people is the supreme law, but this means something different today than it meant in 1820. In 19th Century Missouri, only the welfare of the popular majority was protected. When thousands of Mormons emigrated to western Missouri in the 1830s, their culture, politics, and religious beliefs clashed with other settlers so intensely that they were first expelled from Jackson County and then from the state entirely. Missourians’ solution to the “Mormon problem” – forced expulsion or “Mormonising” – became the precedent for dealing with other unpopular groups, like Native Americans and abolitionists, and would lead to the Civil War.

From Pendergast to Clean Missouri: Election Issues and Proposed Reforms

Using examples from Missouri and national political history, election law attorney Steve Davis will explain issues of intense current debate, including voting rights, redistricting, voter fraud, and proposed Electoral College reforms. Steve will separate fact from fiction in the partisan debates and enable listeners to understand how the process really works.

Carol Elaine Davit

Executive Director
Missouri Prairie Foundation
About the Speaker

Carol is the executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, a nonprofit land trust. Over her 20+ years in conservation and environmental fields, Carol's work has included land protection, sustainable use of natural resources, conservation education, and production of the 41-year-old Missouri Prairie Journal.

Why Prairie Matters: New Relevancies of a Vanishing Landscape

Prairie in Missouri once covered more than 15 million acres, and prairie soils made the state into the agricultural powerhouse that it is today. Prairie today is reduced to fewer than 60,000 scattered, unplowed acres, but these prairie remnants are biodiversity powerhouses and hold the keys to sustainable future land use to benefit all Missourians.

Benefits of Native Plants to Missouri Communities

Plants originating from to Missouri's prairies, glades, wetlands, forests and other habitats may be planted in developed landscapes, providing many benefits to cities and towns throughout the state. In addition to creating a sense of place, these native plants store carbon, filter and absorb stormwater, provide for pollinating insects and make our human communities liveable–and connect our cultural history to natural history, upon which all life depends.

James Erwin

Historian and Author
St. Louis
About the Speaker

James Erwin is a retired attorney who practiced law in St. Louis for 38 years. Erwin is the author and co-author of books on the Civil War in Missouri, the history of St. Charles, steamboat disasters, and true crime in Missouri. He is a frequent speaker on the Civil War and local history. Currently, he is vice-chair of the Kirkwood (Missouri) Arts Commission, president of the St. Louis Civil War Roundtable, and treasurer of the Unbound Book Festival.

Steamboat Disasters of the Lower Missouri River

During the nineteenth century, 300 boats met their end in the steamboat graveyard that was the Lower Missouri River, from Omaha, Nebraska, to its mouth a few miles north of St. Louis. Although derided as little more than an “orderly pile of kindling,” steamboats were in fact technological marvels superbly adapted to the river’s conditions. Their light superstructure and long, wide, flat hulls powered by high-pressure engines drew so little water that they could cruise on “a heavy dew” even when fully loaded. But these same characteristics made them susceptible to fires, explosions, and snags (tree trunks ripped from the banks, hiding under the water’s surface). And the river held other dangers–disease, crime, and (in time of war) guerrillas. Historian and author James Erwin tells the story of the perils steamboats, their passengers, and their crews faced on every voyage.

Two Hundred Years of Notorious Crimes in the Show-Me State

Historian and author James Erwin looks back over the past two hundred years of crimes in Missouri that excited the public’s interest. He describes, among others, an infamous duel on Bloody Island, the origin of the Western gunfight, the real-life story behind the folk songs “Stagger Lee” and “Frankie and Johnnie,” the (alleged) murder of the founder of Swope Park, mysterious unsolved murders in Mexico and St. Joseph, serial killers Bertha Gifford and Ray and Faye Copeland, and the “Missouri Miracle” of the kidnapping and recovery of Shawn Hornbeck.

Elyssa Ford

Associate Professor
Northwest Missouri State University
About the Speaker

Elyssa Ford is an associate professor of history at Northwest Missouri State University, and her research centers on memory and identity, women's history, and public history education. Ford's forthcoming book is Rodeo as Refuge, Rodeo as Rebellion, and she has related articles in Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion and the Pacific Historical Review. She has written on women’s suffrage for the Missouri Historical Review and National Park Service. Her work on public history pedagogy has examined academic-community partner relationships, the value of local history to promote student engagement, and the potential and problems that rural museums face.

Soothing the "Savage Hearts of Man": Women's Suffrage and Rural Missouri

Though often ignored by the national and eastern organizations, women’s suffrage groups in the Midwest learned by the late 19th century that rural areas also must be targeted to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. Historian Elyssa Ford will focus on how rural women in Missouri played an important role in the suffrage movement. From Kirksville in the far northeast to Maryville in the far northwest, rural communities engaged in suffrage discussions, invited national speakers who bewitched–and sometimes enraged–local audiences, and supported their own suffrage workers. Within this world of Missouri suffragists, Ford will highlight the compelling story of Maryville’s Alma Nash and her all-women band who traveled to Washington, D.C., for the national women’s suffrage parade in 1913. Through their actions at the parade and at home in the Midwest, it is possible to see how a small group of young, rural women engaged with the suffrage movement and how they were shaped not just by the national suffrage discussion but by the local and often heated suffrage debates within their community.

Vanessa Garry

Assistant Professor
University of Missouri-St. Louis
St. Louis
About the Speaker

Dr. Vanessa Garry, Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis teaches aspiring principals and superintendents. As a former administrator at both the school and district levels, Garry’s research, situated in urban education, intersects at the history of urban education and the practice of data use. She examines the history of urban education through the lens of the work performed by Ruth Harris, the first African American President of Stowe Teachers College from 1940 to 1954. Garry has authored six articles and a book chapter on Ruth Harris with the most recent article published by the Journal of Urban History.

Challenging Segregation Through Community Education: A Biographical Vignette About Stowe’s President Ruth Harris

Narrowing the focus of Dr. Ruth Harris’ tenure as President of Stowe Teachers College (now Harris-Stowe State University) to the early 1940s, this biographical vignette will focus on her preservice teachers community engagement program. Harris, one of the few African American women in the United States to lead a college during the Jim Crow era, created the program to expand preservice teachers’ knowledge about children living in poverty. The program, inspired by her dissertation topic and grounded in progressive education, was a component of the sociology course. It required preservice teachers to volunteer 50 hours working in a St. Louis organization. The impetus of this presentation is to inform participants of how one program created teacher advocacy and life-long volunteerism. It will also illustrate to participants how the program can be a template for today’s college and university administrators who seek to partner with institutions supporting underserved populations.

Ruth Harris: Mentoring Faculty to Achieve Stowe Teachers College’s Accreditation During the Jim Crow Era

Using a turning point during Dr. Ruth Harris’ tenure as President of Stowe Teachers College (now Harris-Stowe State University), this presentation will focus on how Harris mentored Stowe’s faculty to achieve its accreditation. Situated in the philosophies of race uplift, Black feminist thought, and female mentoring model, this biographical vignette examined how Harris developed faculty to meet accreditation requirements. An unlikely inflection point was a Stowe student’s lawsuit against St. Louis Public Schools’ (SLPS) white teachers’ college (Harris Teachers College—namesake of Superintendent William Torrey Harris) for refusing to admit her. Though Harris risked her job, her testimony in court revealed stark differences between the segregated colleges. As a result of Harris’ testimony, the student initially won the case but lost the appeal; however, differences between the two schools laid bare the need for Stowe’s accreditation. Though the district’s involvement helped with securing certification, Harris’ mentoring of the faculty helped lower the barriers that stymied it. The aspiration of the presentation is to motivate guests to reflect on how one African American woman used mentoring to move the organization closer to realizing its goals during a difficult period. Also, the need for organizations to mentor employees, especially minorities and women.

Galen E. Gritts

About the Speaker

Galen Gritts is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, a founding member of the Alliance for Native Programming & Initiatives, an advisory board member for the Native American Heritage Fund of the Missouri Humanities Council, and a member of the Disparities Elimination Advisory Committee (DEAC) for the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD) of Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, as a representative of the local Native American community.

Being Cherokee

A brief telling of Cherokee history with reference to Gritts' own experiences as a Missouri citizen since birth. The Cherokees are one of the most recognizable tribes in the U.S. and have a strong tie to Missouri.

Forgotten Trunk in the Attic

An overview of why Native folks are "invisible" to many Missourians as Missouri and many neighboring states have no extant tribes and haven't for some time. However, Gloria Gaynor was right. We survived.

William Michael Hart

Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation
About the Speaker

Bill Hart is a seventh-generation Missourian. His interest in small-town and roadside Missouri was fostered by his work for the fourteen years for the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation where he currently serves as executive director. He holds a B.S. in Historic Preservation from Southeast Missouri State University and did his graduate work in Architectural History at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Particularly interested in vanishing buildings along the roadside and countryside, he was one of the founders of the Missouri Barn Alliance and Rural Network (MoBARN), advocating for barn and homestead preservation.

Historic Missouri Roadsides: Traveling Missouri on 2-Lane Highways

This presentation is in the form of a travelogue, with the book having five guided tours of Missouri on two-lane highways. Richly illustrated with photographs from the author's collection. Featured as well are six "destination" points, where one might spend a longer staycation. Like a travel book, places to eat, stay and visit are included, but only those owned by Missouri citizens, helping to establish and nurture historic tourism to benefit Missourians.

Matthew Christopher Hulbert

Associate Professor
Hampden-Sydney College
About the Speaker

Matthew Christopher Hulbert is an assistant professor of history at Hampden-Sydney College with expertise in Civil War America, irregular violence in the western borderlands, and social memory. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia where his dissertation won the Lewis Eldon Atherton Dissertation Prize from the State Historical Society of Missouri and the C. Vann Woodward Prize from the Southern Historical Association. Hulbert is the author or editor of four books, including The Ghosts of Guerrilla Memory (UGA Press, 2016) which won the 2017 Wiley-Silver Prize. His biography of Major John Newman Edwards is currently under contract with Bison Books.

Killing Quantrill: The Hunt for Missouri’s Most Notorious Civil War Guerrilla

On May 10, 1865, famed Confederate guerrilla captain William Clarke Quantrill and about two-dozen of his most loyal Missouri bushwhackers were camped in the barn of James Wakefield, a Spencer County farmer (Bloomington). In a pouring rain, they watched as a large body of armed men thundered down on their position. For once, Union men had caught the guerrillas–famous for their deadly ambushes–off guard; they’d been sent specifically by Union General John M. Palmer to eliminate Quantrill before he could gain a foothold in the Bluegrass. Within a few weeks of the Wakefield Raid, Quantrill would be dead.

This lecture–which is based on primary research, firsthand exploration of important sites, and interviews with descendants of involved parties–narrates Quantrill’s career as a guerrilla chieftain, his flight into Kentucky, and his eventual death. It illustrates the end of Missouri’s guerrilla war (which necessitated the move into Kentucky); how the two states dealt differently with their “guerrilla problems”; what happened to the rest of Quantrill’s band in Kentucky; and, ultimately, what it means for Civil War memory in Missouri that the Show-Me State’s most infamous/famous Civil War export was hunted down and killed by Union agents in Kentucky.

The Ghosts of Guerrilla Memory: Remembering the Civil War in the Missouri-Kansas Borderlands

In the annals of American frontier mythology, no two figures have been more celebrated than Billy the Kid and Jesse James. According to film, fiction, and popular memory, these six-shooting badmen of the plains occupied the same abstracted geographic space–the “West”–during an equally abstracted period of time: when that West was particularly “Wild.” But on one hand, Billy had immigrated to the Far West, worked cattle, fought in range wars, and intermingled regularly with Mexicans and Indians. On the other hand, Jesse did none of those things.

This talk, “The Ghosts of Guerrilla Memory: Remembering the Civil War in the Missouri-Kansas Borderlands,” addresses how it was that we came to remember Jesse James as a Mexican-fighting, Indian-killing cowboy icon of the Wild West, rather than as a southerner from a slave-owning family and a diehard Confederate guerrilla. To answer that question, this heavily illustrated lecture takes stock of how we have been programmed to remember our national bloodletting through outlaw histories, dime novels, stage shows, guerrilla reunions, radio serials, television programs, and feature films–but also how, through those pop culture mediums, memories involving irregular violence have been very effectively elided from the mainstream “Civil War experience.”

Becky Imhauser

About the Speaker

Dr. Becky Imhauser is an author, educator, and conference leader. She has written 15 books and a multimedia musical. A former magazine and newspaper editor, Imhauser has published more than 2,500 articles in national periodicals. She is a college English instructor and publishing consultant. Imhauser holds a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in education, and a doctorate degree in education. Combining her experience in publishing and education, Imhauser frequently leads conferences and makes presentations.

Love and War: A Doughboy's Diary

Dr. Becky Imhauser portrays Frances Truitt Rogers through the lens of her husband’s unpublished World War I diary. Written with clarity, compassion, and humor, the military diary of Lieutenant James F. Rogers provides an intimate glimpse into the Sedalia couple’s life during World War I (including their wedding day…and night!) This presentation features family photos and correspondence, as well as a “rest of the story” overview of the Rogers’ lives. While James Rogers left no biological descendants, his diary is a priceless legacy. It speaks of love and loyalty, patience and patriotism. This doughboy’s historical experiences resonate with contemporary audiences.

Dr. Imhauser is an author, educator, and conference leader. Through research and writing, she has encountered historic Sedalians that she brings to “life” through first-person portrayals.

More than Money: Being “Rich” During the Depression

Life magazine declared Sedalia, Missouri, the city second-hardest hit by the Great Depression in the entire United States. At the same time, community members declared themselves “rich” and proved resilient. Consider department store owner Harry Waldman, as described by Dr. Becky Imhauser. When Sedalia entered the Depression. Waldman led a charity event, where civic leaders and businessmen were “arrested” for humorous infractions. All money from the arrests went to the financially destitute. Months later, Waldman, himself, was destitute. His business was bankrupt, and his assets were sold at public auction. Many of the people he had “arrested” pooled their money and bought his assets, so he could remain in business until his retirement. Waldman is one example of one community’s spirit that applies to all people who encounter adversity and challenge.

Bryan M. Jack

About the Speaker

Bryan Jack is associate professor of historical studies at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. He is the the editor of Southern History on Screen: Race and Rights, 1976–2016 and The Saint Louis African American Community and the Exodusters. His articles have appeared in The Griot and the Councilor, and in international publications from the British Association of American Studies and American Studies of Turkey. Jack earned his PhD from Saint Louis University, a master’s degree from the University of Alabama, and a bachelor’s degree from Baker University. He lives in the city of St. Louis.

Crossing the Red Sea: St. Louis and the Exodus of 1879

In 1879, thousands of African Americans fled the post-Reconstruction South in search of political, economic, and social opportunity in Kansas. Called “Exodusters” after the Biblical story of escape from oppression, many arrived in St. Louis destitute, and city officials refused to help. To the stranded Exodusters, St. Louis became a barrier as formidable as the Red Sea. However, through a commitment to civil rights and a remarkable display of community organization, African Americans in St. Louis came together to sustain the Exodusters’ material needs as well as provide funds to continue their journey. The Exoduster movement, and the relief efforts that supported it, provide a unique opportunity to further our understanding of St. Louis as a city, of Missouri as a state, and of African American life in an era of dramatic change.

The Gateway to the South: Understanding Missouri as a Southern State

Sitting near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, St. Louis proudly wears the title as the “Gateway to the West,” a status displayed in the Gateway Arch, the city’s iconic landmark. Another landmark, The Old Courthouse (the Dred Scott case) speaks to St. Louis’s and Missouri’s history of slavery. Thus, we are reminded that a north-south axis along the Mississippi River, not just the relationship between east and west, also shaped Missouri’s history and identity. While Missouri is commonly recognized as Midwestern, its historical identity is more complicated. The area of “Little Dixie” along the Missouri River, the border conflict with Kansas during the Civil War, a history of codified racial segregation, and even Mizzou's inclusion in the Southeastern Conference all speak to Missouri’s identity as “the northernmost southern state.” Using examples from history and popular culture, Bryan Jack explores Missouri’s Southern identity. The goal of the presentation is not to convince anyone that Missouri is “Southern,” but to help people understand how Missouri’s geography and culture occupies a unique place in American culture.

Kelly Johnston

Retired Cartographer
About the Speaker

Kelly Johnston is a Missouri native, earning degrees from the University of Central Missouri and Indiana University. He's been a software developer, cartographer, and taught mapping at the University of Virginia and Drury University.

Growing up, Kelly was immersed in architecture working alongside his father, a master carpenter.

Kelly and his wife Mary Jo restored their 1914 Missouri home, recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kelly leads tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright house at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and has visited more than 50 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings around the world.

Show Me Frank Lloyd Wright

Many consider Frank Lloyd Wright to be America's greatest architect. His 'organic architecture' helped popularize open floor plans, light-filled rooms, and connections to nature, all still in demand today. Here in Missouri, Wright worked with forward-thinking families to design four unique houses and clashed with building authorities while constructing a controversial church. Who were these Missourians on the cutting edge of architectural design and why do Wright's creations remain relevant nearly sixty years after his death? Kelly Johnston's talk "Show Me Frank Lloyd Wright" will help you see Missouri's buildings with new eyes.

All Maps Are Lies!

Maps spur our imagination. Maps transport us. In maps we trust. But all maps are lies.

Filled with example maps from the Show Me state and beyond, Kelly Johnston's talk 'All Maps Are Lies' will forever change the way you look at maps. You'll come away as a more informed and discerning map reader with an understanding that "not only is it easy to lie with maps, it is essential".

Suzanne Michelle Jones

Ferguson Florissant School District
St. Louis County
About the Speaker

Suzanne Jones is a high school science teacher in the Ferguson Florissant School District. She received a bachelor of science degree in zoology, a master’s degree in biology, and a teaching certification from Arkansas State University. From 1999 until its close, she was involved in the American Indian Center of St. Louis. Since then she has tried to provide education about Native Americans in the St. Louis area through a variety of presentations and venues including scouting groups, schools, museums, and libraries.

Native American Storytelling

This presentation focuses on traditional stories told primarily by Choctaw, Cherokee, and Delaware Nations/tribes, all of which Jones is either a tribal member or descended from. These stories are often told to educate children or entertain people at gatherings.

Impact on Native America

The contents of this presentation may be tailored to the needs of the host. It frequently delves into the history of European and Native American interactions and often lends itself to showing how interactions between people of European ancestry and Native Americans have often forced changes in the population and cultures of the indigenous people.

Jones has primarily talked to school groups in these presentations on a variety of topics, for example Native American Differences (Minority Scholars), English class (Native America is still here), and FACS (Native foods). Her focus tends to be on the southeastern Native Americans and Pan-Native American experience.

Valerie Battle Kienzle

About the Speaker

Valerie Battle Kienzle is a Nashville, Tennessee, native. Writing has been an important part of her personal and professional life for 40+ years–reporting facts for a daily newspaper; creating concepts and programs for a corporate public affairs department; writing advertising copy as an agency account representative; generating copy for school district communications; completing proposals, speeches, and scripts as a freelance writer; and conducting extensive research and authoring books. Her grandmothers instilled in her a lifelong love of history. She and two family members own Tennessee's Beech Hill Farm, a National Register property owned by family members since 1796.

What's With St. Louis? The Quirks, Personality, and Charm of the Gateway City

Why are turtles incorporated into the wrought iron fence at The Old Court House? Can beaver be eaten during Lent? Why are pieces of metal track embedded in some local streets? How many times did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speak in St. Louis? These and other questions about St. Louis routinely perplex both natives and newcomers to the area.

Digging through countless archives and talking to local experts, Kienzle continues the quest to find answers to some of The Gateway City’s most puzzling questions. Part cultural study of The River City and part history lesson, the presentation reveals the backstories of dozens of local places, events, and beloved traditions. Want to know why St. Louisans are so obsessed with soccer or why the acclaimed Missouri Botanical Garden contains a Japanese garden? Look no further. Like the book, What's With St. Louis? The Quirks, Personality, and Charm of the Gateway City, this presentation provides informative and entertaining answers to those and many other questions. The presentation is audience interactive. A question-and-answer segment follows the presentation.

Lost St. Louis: Lost Landmarks of the Gateway to the West

St. Louis has been a shining beacon on the shores of the Mississippi River for more than 250 years, and many iconic landmarks have come and gone. The city hosted the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, the World's Fair, in 1904, with acres of beautiful buildings, gardens, and fountains, nearly all of which are lost to time. Famous Busch Stadium now sits on an area that was once a vibrant community for Chinese immigrants. St. Louis Jockey Club was an expansive and popular gathering spot in the late 19th century until the state outlawed gambling. The Lion Gas Building was home to a unique mural featuring more than seventy shades of gray in tribute to famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. In order to construct The Gateway Arch, 40 blocks of downtown St. Louis buildings and residences were razed. This presentation, like the book Lost St. Louis: Lost Landmarks of the Gateway to the West, details some of the fantastic forgotten and lost landmarks of St. Louis, Missouri.

Marc Rice

Truman State University
About the Speaker

Marc Rice is Professor of Musicology at Truman State University. He teaches courses on many areas of music history but has a particular focus on jazz. His research focus is on the jazz history of the Midwest, in particular the Kansas City area.

Kansas City’s Bennie Moten: Bandleader and Black Entrepreneur

The Bennie Moten Orchestra was the most financially successful Black dance band in the west during the 1920s. Its accomplishments can be attributed to the business acumen of their leader. Bennie Moten formed relationships with business and social leaders, leased his own dance hall, recruited the best musicians and arrangers, used the local press, and worked with record companies to secure his band’s dominance. This presentation examines the business side of running a Black dance band in the 1920s, and will also uncover the social and economic network of Black Kansas City and Moten’s place within this community.

Annett C. Richter

Musicologist, Musician
About the Speaker

A native of Halle, Germany, Annett Richter has taught courses in music history, music iconography, music bibliography, and writing about music at North Dakota State University, Concordia College and Minnesota State University (Moorhead, Minnesota), and the University of Missouri, Columbia. Her research focuses on intersections between music and painting, and, more broadly, on interrelationships among music, art, society, culture, and place. She received her Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Minnesota where she studied with art historian Karal Ann Marling. Richter’s dissertation is the first sustained musicological discussion of Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton and his connection to music.

The Folksong Arrangements of “Saturday Night at Tom Benton’s” (Decca, 1942): A Visual and Sounding Tribute to Thomas Hart Benton’s Musical Evenings in Kansas City, Missouri

This lecture focuses on Missouri artist and folklorist Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975) and his connection to music. Music historian Annett Richter takes a closer look at “Saturday Night at Tom Benton’s,” an album of musical Americana recorded by Benton and released on the record label Decca in 1942. Its three folksong tracks (“Cindy,” “Wayfaring Stranger,” and “Old Joe Clark”) recall the musical evenings Benton hosted in his Kansas City home beginning in the later 1930s. He performed here on the harmonica alongside local composers, members of his family, and musicians from the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra. In this presentation, Richter enlightens listeners about the visual, aural, and verbal constituents of “Saturday Night.” Her combined discussion of Benton’s cover drawing and album notes, the photos of the musicians, the folksong arrangements, and the musical instruments heard on Benton’s record album and during his musical gatherings in his Kansas City home will show that, in this recording, Benton traverses self-constructed, unique musical worlds of fluid boundaries through both image and sound.

Thomas Hart Benton as Musician and Folklorist on the Island Martha's Vineyard

For over fifty years beginning in 1920, Benton spent his summers on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts. He came to the Vineyard together with his family members, all of whom were musicians as well. Richter shares her research and discoveries regarding Benton’s work as musician and folklorist on the Vineyard, a place where Benton fostered, in his summer home, musical traditions with his family and with Vineyard resident and visiting musicians. Listeners will see photos of Benton’s musical activities with his island group “Tom Benton and His Harmonica Boys” and learn about “Chilmark Suite” and “Gay Head Dance,” two Vineyard-inspired compositions written for a unique combination of instruments (harmonica, flute, and harpsichord) and recorded on “Saturday Night at Tom Benton’s” (1942). Richter shows that these artifacts reflect Benton’s efforts in preserving his self-created musical community, and she reveals what they tell us about Benton sharing with audiences during World War II: “real American-made music”–music inspired by those fellow musicians with whom he made it.

Carole Elaine Shelton

Storyteller and Author
About the Speaker

Carole Shelton is a retired educator from the St. Louis City Schools. She currently, works part-time in the program "Read From the Start," as a discussion leader. This program is designed to help parents and caregivers become more effective readers to their preschool children. They are fostering skills through reading to prepare their preschoolers for the formal learning experience in school. Carole is also a storyteller who tells a wide variety of stories from around the world with a hint of music to inspire. She also researches and creates historical stories about Black women all over the country.

Many Thousands Gone

"Many Thousands Gone," a Negro spiritual, sung during the Civil War by escaping slaves to reach and join the Union Army. There were hundreds of enslaved men and women living in Missouri before and during the Civil War whose names and lives are long forgotten in time. This program will focus on the struggles for survival as freedom loomed on the horizon.

Portraits of Black Women in Missouri

This program offers first and third person portrayals of Black women in Missouri; creating biographical sketches which illustrates the impact of enslavement and pending freedom upon their lives. Choose one or two of the following:

  • Elizabeth Keckely
  • Mary Robinson
  • Lucy Delaney
  • Harriet Scott
  • Annie Malone

Dennis Stroughmatt

Musician and Historian
About the Speaker

Fiddler and cultural historian Dennis Stroughmatt became acquainted with the historically French Creole community of Old Mines, Missouri, as a student three decades ago and learned the community’s music and folklore from its tradition-bearers. He is now recognized as one of the foremost experts on French Creole culture of North America, especially that of the old Illinois Country (encompassing much of present-day Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana). He has made numerous recordings and received awards from national cultural institutions. He travels extensively throughout the country as both a musical performer and an educational speaker, and teaches at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges.

In French Fiddle Tunes and Tall Tales: The French Creole Founding of Missouri

Beginning in 1699 with the building of villages like Cahokia and Kaskaskia along the Mississippi River, and later Ste Genevieve and St Louis, French colonists from Western France and Quebec would merge with the native populations of modern-day Missouri to create a Creole culture that is still unique from its cousins in Louisiana and Canada even today. As this early Missouri population grew throughout the mid and late 18th century and changed the wild Missouri landscape to one with a distinct French flavor, it would eventually leave its legacy through not only town names and landmarks, but also songs, language, stories, and food. Via 300 hundred-year-old songs and stories, this exciting program will take the listener on a fascinating trip through the French Creole history of Missouri from both a historical and cultural perspective and will highlight the enduring French identity of places like Ste Genevieve and Old Mines through ancient French folktales, haunting ballads, and foot-stomping fiddle tunes.

La Guillanee: Ancient French Traditions Live in Missouri through Music and Food

Who could have imagined a tradition that began centuries ago, one now extinct in western France, would remain alive in Missouri and Illinois? “La Guillanee,” originally a Celtic tradition to share food and bounty throughout the community during winter, began in Europe as a gesture of charity over two thousand years ago. In France, it also brought the community together to celebrate the New Year and French joie de vivre (joy of life). Enjoy a musical and educational presentation that will explore the European, Canadian, and French Creole roots of this now Missouri tradition (performed annually in Ste Genevieve, MO), as well as the fiddle music, performed and food eaten. This “Carnival” tradition famously encompasses not only Ste Genevieve’s New Year stroll but the St Louis tradition of “The King’s Ball” and even the Mardi Gras!

Jon E. Taylor

University of Central Missouri
About the Speaker

Jon E. Taylor is professor of history at the University of Central Missouri, where he teaches courses in American history. Taylor has written four books on the life, political career, and legacy of Harry Truman. He is currently working on a book about the significance of Truman’s Senate career.

Truman and Pendergast, 1922-1945

One of the most complicated friendships during Harry Truman's life was his long-lasting relationship with Tom Pendergast, who became a Kansas City political kingpin in the early 1920s and 1930s through his use of strong-arm tactics and personal wealth. However, by 1940, Harry Truman's political fortune hit a snag when Boss Tom was convicted of federal crimes and sent to Fort Leavenworth to serve time. Truman could no longer depend upon the boss for political support for his upcoming 1940 Senate reelection campaign. This presentation explores Truman's relationship with Pendergast and explains how Truman was able to craft a political strategy to win reelection to the Senate in 1940 despite the fact that Pendergast was jailed, and assesses the lasting impact these interactions had on his political career.

Captain Harry

Several noted Missourians played significant roles in World War I, including Harry Truman. Historians have identified Harry Truman's military service in World War I as a turning point in his life and later political career. This presentation examines Truman's decision to enter military service in 1917, tracks his command of the 129th Field Artillery as it traversed the fields of France during the war, and assesses the significance of Truman's military service on his political career.

Michael Tsichlis

St. Louis
About the Speaker

Dr. Mike Tsichlis was born and raised in the City of St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. in public policy analysis and administration from Saint Louis University, where he also taught political science and joined the university development staff. While continuing his career in higher education and nonprofit institutional advancement, he pursued a path as a researcher and writer. He has published numerous articles on history and current issues in newspapers, journals, magazines, and online. He is completing two book manuscripts as well as an annotated edition of excerpts from the speeches and writings of John Quincy Adams.

"A Title Page to a Great Tragic Volume": John Quincy Adams on the Missouri Compromise

For nearly two years prior to Missouri statehood in August 1821, political officials in Washington were riven over the status of enslaved persons in Missouri as well as territories and future states. One was Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, a lifetime foe of slavery. While as a member of the executive branch he was unable to participate in legislative debates, as an observer Adams committed his views and interactions with others during the conflict to his meticulously detailed diary and correspondence with political leaders. In these revealing first-person accounts, Adams lays bare his concerns and fears regarding the outcome of “the Missouri question” and what it meant not only for people living in Missouri but also, in a very prescient way, the destiny of the entire country.

This presentation is based almost entirely on the observations and opinions of Adams and those with whom he wrote about and maintained correspondence. It also lends insight into his larger legacy as a statesman and the actions he later took to combat the institution of slavery and its proponents, whom he called “the slavocracy.”

This presentation reveals the harsh reality surrounding Missouri's birth as it celebrates its bicentennial.

Connie Yen

Author and Archivist
Greene County Archives and Records Center
About the Speaker

Connie Yen is a writer and archivist with a passion for history and telling stories. She is the author of Sinner and Savior: Emma Molloy and the Graham Murder, the true story of an 1886 murder in Greene County known as “The Graham Tragedy,” and A Postcard History of Springfield. Connie graduated from Missouri State University in 2012 with a degree in History and a minor in Ozark Studies. She earned a Masters’ Degree in History in 2015. Since 2016, Connie has been the director of the Greene County Archives and Records Center in Springfield, Missouri.

Police Matrons in the Ozarks

Using examples from around the Ozarks, author and archivist Connie Yen will show how women joined their local police force, the work they did, and the struggles they faced at work and in the community. This presentation shows that women were policing the Ozarks before they could officially be part of a police force, before they could vote, and often before they were allotted a salary.

Forgotten Women of the Ozarks

An early suffragist in Springfield, Fanny Crenshaw once went to the polls to vote but was turned away because she was a woman. Fannie Williams was a doctor in Jasper County in the 1870s and 1880s. Susan McIntire was the first police matron in Greene County. These are just a few of the women who have lived and worked and made a difference in their part of the Ozarks. This presentation introduces these women, and others, and the work they did to create change in the Ozarks.