Exploring Missouri's History On A Black History Tour
Those interested in Black History in our nation
will find more than they imagined when they visit the state of Missouri.
And, on this journey we discovered What the History Books Don’t Tell You
about the people who faced challenges and cruelty as they struggled for
Our nation, and the world - face many challenges. The same is true for the men who laid the foundation of the United States. At a time when slavery was a serious topic of debate these men did not think America could overcome adversity and racial barriers. Nor did they ever imagine we would elect a vibrant and charismatic young politician named Barack Obama as President.
On our trip to Missouri we stepped back to a time when men debated slavery while it continued to shatter lives. We stared across the muddy waters of the Missouri as those desperate for freedom did on the nights they crossed. Few escaped. Others, captured faced the certainty of cruel punishment and death.
We felt the cold, bitter wind nip at our flesh as we stood inside a slave's cabin that was little more than a horse barn. Not far away we viewed a elegant mansion untouched by time. Yet this deceiving structure in all its grandeur has a dark past; one which stared back at us with unremorseful eyes. Here, men and women of color were bred like cattle, and later taken to market to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Later on our journey when we stood on the steps of the historic Old Courthouse in St. Louis where we were given a intense glimpse into the treatment of slaves on auction day. On these steps, men, women, and children were examined like animals under the watchful eyes of their master and potential owners.
This was also the location where
sued his owner for freedom. Scott v. Sanford would further divide the nation
and is one of the main events that ultimately led to the Civil War. As we
stood back, far from the historic Old Courthouse to take a photo there was
half of the arch of St Louis - the gateway to the West - to new beginnings -
It seemed fitting that a group of protestors were onsite preparing for a rally, and at the same time odd to see the bus load of Eastern Tourist snapping photos with them. I wondered what they would think of the Dred Scott exhibit inside? Did they know that St Louis was also home "free" African Americans known as the Colored Aristocracy, who lived rich and diverse lives. Or - that these free men and women of Color also risked their lives to organize various Underground Railroad stops?
Afterwards we paid our respect to Dred Scott at his grave and I could sense the hope of unity for all of humanity. As we traveled on our Black History Tour it became a memorable adventure with our new friends. Along the way I hoped we would discover something "Happy" that I could share. "Happy" - there's was nothing "Happy" about slavery I was reminded by our tour leader. It was her passion for the subject of Black History that brought the stories of these slaves to life, and revealed What the History Books Don’t Tell You.
Along the way we visited places that reveal Missouri's Forgotten History, and we met many interesting people who shared their stories with us. Ever optimistic, I can say I did find a few "Happy" stories, if that's what they can be called.
Like the story of the notorious Jesse James, who was shot in the back in his own home, which is not onsite at the Patee House in St Joseph, where you’ll also find the Pony Express Museum. What few may know is that Jesse helped support the colored school of Banneaker in Parkville where his Step Brother, a half black man, taught local children of Color.
By Melody Schubert
To discover St. Louis attractions, events, and plan your trip visit the St. Louis Convention and Visitors bureau at www.explorestlouis.com.
To discover more about Missouri's Black History Tours available visit the National Black Tourism Network online at www.tourism-network.net.