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Celebrate Black History Month in Missouri

Discover the history and contributions of notable Black Missourians like Scott Joplin, Dred Scott and more.

American Jazz Museum in Missouri
American Jazz Museum, Kansas City (Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism)

These sites offer insight into the struggles and accomplishments of many notable Missourians, including people such as Scott Joplin, the founders of Lincoln University and Dred Scott.

Day 1

Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing and Rest Area

This site is on the St. Louis Riverfront Trail, three miles (5km) north of downtown St. Louis, just north of the Merchant’s Bridge. In the early morning hours of May 21, 1855, a small group of runaway slaves and their guides crossed the Mississippi River from St. Louis, attempting to reach a route to freedom through Illinois. Accompanying them was Mary Meachum, a free woman of color.

The Old Courthouse

Built between 1839 and 1862, this historic courthouse was the scene of one of the nation’s most important cases: the freedom trial of Dred and Harriet Scott.

Scott Joplin House State Historic Site

Tour the modest flat where Scott Joplin wrote his famous ragtime classics, including “The Entertainer.” The apartment is lit by gaslight and contains 1902 furnishings. An antique player piano fills the home with The King of Ragtime’s unique music. Please note this state historic site is closed from November through January.

Day 2

The Griot Museum of Black History

The Griot Museum of Black History and Culture interprets stories and features life-size likenesses of African Americans with a regional connection whose life activities influenced the state, region, and even the entire country. From the Griot, take the drive to Jefferson City to see Lincoln University.

Jim’s Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center

Jim’s Journey, northeast Missouri’s African-American history museum, is the country’s only memorial to Jim, Huck Finn’s friend and companion in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Visitors will learn about Mark Twain the humanitarian, who used satire and humor to undermine racism. This collection includes artifacts, photographs and memorabilia to tell the story of African Americans in Twain’s writings and the contributions of Hannibal’s African-American residents.

Day 3

Lincoln University and the Soldiers Memorial Plaza

Lincoln University was founded in 1866 by the men of the 62nd and 65th United States Colored Infantries and their white officers. Tour the grounds of this historic university and visit the Soldiers Memorial Plaza.

Arrow Rock African-American Experience Museum

“Reflections of African-American Arrow Rock, 1865-1960” is a permanent exhibit located in Brown Lodge in the village of Arrow Rock, a National Historic Landmark. Using oral histories, records, and artifacts, the story of achievement in the face of adversity serves as an inspiration to this and future generations.

The Black Archives Museum

Exhibits here highlight the musicians who made an impact in the music industry, as well as exhibits on desegregation, education and other aspects of African-American history in St. Joseph.

Day 4

Black Archives of Mid-America

One of the largest collections in the Midwest of African-American memorabilia, artifacts and research material on local leaders, oral histories and business records. An educational resource, providing access to its collections for research, exhibition and publication to honor our community heritage and to catalyze public awareness. Admission: $2; younger than 12, $1.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The museum recreates the look, sounds and feel of the game’s storied past. The Negro Leagues were established in 1920. Video presentations and memorabilia in the 10,000-square-foot multimedia exhibit chronicle the history and heroes of the Negro Leagues, from the origin to the 1960s.

American Jazz Museum

Located in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, the American Jazz Museum showcases the sights and sounds of a uniquely American art form.

Day 5

Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site

The Battle of Island Mound marked the first time that African-American troops were engaged in Civil War combat, nearly a year before the battle depicted in the film “Glory.” The site encompasses Camp Africa, where the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry camped in 1862 before a pitched battle with pro-Confederate forces near a low hill named Island Mound.

George Washington Carver National Monument

Authorized by Congress in 1943, George Washington Carver National Monument preserves the birthplace and legacy of the famed African American scientist, educator and humanitarian. This was the first national monument dedicated to a black American and the first to honor someone other than a president. Park facilities include a visitor center and museum, gift shop, walking trail and picnic area.