Black History

Two black historical figures will be brought to life from 1 to 4 p.m. on May 29: musician J.W. “Blind” Boone and Sgt. Wallace Lilly, a slave who enlisted in the Union Army in 1864 for his freedom.

Both of these men luminaries and seven other historical figures from Columbia’s past will come alive through four-minute monologues held during 1 to 4 p.m. on May 29 at their graves in Columbia Cemetery on Broadway.

This event was highlighted in this “Living History event planned for Memorial Day,” article by Rudi Keller, published May 13, 2017 in the Columbia Tribune.

The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Historic Columbia Cemetery, which also has a Facebook page. The monologues were written by Chris Campbell, executive director of the Boone County Historical Society.

So who else will you get to see come to life – with a consciousness of who they were, their current deceased status and today’s events?

  • Ann Hawkins Gentry, Columbia postmistress from 1838-1865.
  • George Swallow, Missouri’s first state geologist and MU faculty member
  • John Lathrop, president of MU twice.
  • Sgt. Wallace Lilly, a slave who enlisted in the Union Army in 1864 for his freedom.
  • Luella St. Clair Moss, Columbia College president from 1893 to 1920.
  • James S. Rollins, a man considered the father of MU.
  • Walter Williams, founder of the MU School of Journalism and MU president from 1931 to 1935.

Why a Black History page? In the best of all possible worlds, it wouldn’t be necessary as a separate category, but our country’s heritage still pervades society. That is why I created this page, to make sure the history of Columbia’s African-Americans was not overlooked.

Think something is missing? Let me know. Also, note because of its importance in Columbia’s history, I’ve created a separate page for the 1923 lynching of James Scott.

Media Coverage (Go here for more Black History media coverage)

May 18, 2015 ColumbiaHistoricHomes.com Post – Black history comes to life

Black history will be the brought back to life on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 with the unveiling of a marker to highlight a place that once existed — Sharp End — will be highlighted. From 5:30 to 6:15 p.m., members of the Sharp End Heritage Commission and city and state officials will mark the unveiling of a historic marker.

This once vibrant entrepreneurial area filled with black-owned businesses including barber shops, restaurants, taverns and other firms filled the 500 block of East Walnut Street, now home to the Columbia Post Office and a city parking garage, according to this May 17, 2015 article by Rudi Keller in the Columbia Tribune.

Why is this important?

This site ColumbiaHistoricHomes.com stems from a desire to save and reveal Columbia’s history. Once a person dies, his or her life story can fade. But when there’s a building, that story can be sometimes be found again. For example, few people know that an early woman journalist once lived in the house at 121 West Boulevard North — or that she’d nearly been given up to a wealthy Boonville, Missouri family.

That’s why Tuesday’s event is so important. It will bring back to life history and lives that can’t be highlighted through the buildings and homes, which are all now gone, except for a few notable exceptions, such as J.W. “Blind” Boone’s home, Second Baptist Church and St. Paul’s Church. The history of these buildings is highlighted in this National Register of Historic Places document.

Looking for more of Columbia’s black history? Here are several links:

Black History Lessons by Kevin Walsh, Inside Columbia, February 2015.

Interested in doing your own sleuthing on black history? I can’t wait to dig into this collection at the State Historic Society: Boone County Black Archives Collection. It includes information on the 1923 lynching.

Looking for a great read? Here’s a review of Gary Kremer’s recent book, “Race and Meaning.”

As for me, I’ll be at the event on Tuesday, when Columbia marks history that I’m grateful didn’t fade once the buildings were gone.

On May 19, 2015, a historical marker will be placed at Fifth and Sixth streets to recognize black business people, according to an article published in the Columbia Daily Tribune o April 5, 2015.

An organization, The Sharp End Heritage Committee, is documenting the development and destruction of Sharp End, the article notes, with oral history interviews. Those involved include Jim Whitt, chairman of the committee and Columbia Board of Education vice president, Vicki Russell, Columbia Tribune Publisher. Those collecting the oral history interviews are high school students Jimmy Whitt and Faramola Shonekan.

Sharp End project remembers historic site of black Columbia business district — This article by Rudi Keller in the Columbia Daily Tribune, April 5 2015, highlights the Sharp End neighborhood and its loss during urban renewal. See the entire article on line here: http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/local/sharp-end-project-remembers-historic-site-of-black-columbia-business/article_1a9afa76-c9a3-565c-97a3-ea24bc19f6eb.html?comments=focus&_dc=972636939957.7379

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