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.

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 of “Gateway to the West,” a status displayed in the Gateway Arch, the city’s iconic landmark. Another landmark, The Old Courthouse (where the Dred Scott case was tried) 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 St. Louis’s and 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 conflict with Kansas on Missouri’s western border before and during the Civil War, a history of codified racial segregation, and even the University of Missouri’s recent inclusion in the Southeastern Conference all speak to the state’s identity as “the northernmost southern state.” Using examples from history and popular culture, historian 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 its geography and culture occupies a unique place in American culture.

Slave Pen to Spectator Sport: Remembering St. Louis's Buried Past

In the 1930s, St. Louis Jaycees began erecting historical markers throughout the city’s downtown. One of the sites they marked was the Bernard M. Lynch Slave Pen/Myrtle Street Civil War Prison. Before the Civil War, Lynch was a slave dealer in St. Louis; the marked site was one of his numerous locations. In 1861 Lynch fled south to join the Confederacy and Union officials converted the slave pen into a military prison. Today, the site sits across the street from Busch Stadium. As three million baseball fans walk past statues and plaques celebrating Cardinals history, most are unaware that before the Cardinals, the area was a site for selling human beings. The history of the site remains mostly unacknowledged, as do many other locations of St. Louis’s racial past. In 1963, during construction of the previous Busch Stadium, newspapers reported on the existence of the site, but it was razed as part of urban renewal, and no new historical marker was erected. Historian Bryan Jack uses the existence (and destruction) of this and other sites as an opportunity to explore how St. Louis interacts with its uncomfortable racial history, and often creates a more palatable history under the guise of civic progress.