A Walk Through Black History in St. Louis

Saturday January 30, 2021

There are many historic sites to visit around St. Louis to help tell the stories of the past, both the struggles and achievements that got us here today. This month as you celebrate Black History Month, find ways to honor the rich culture and great achievements of African Americans in the Gateway City. Take a walk through history at these sites, events and attractions perfect for you and your family:

The St. Louis Walk of Fame is located along The Delmar Loop and honors notable people from St. Louis who made contributions to the culture of the United States. Visit the stars of notable African American figures such as Maya Angelou, Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and Cool Papa Bell. All of the inductees were either born in the Greater St. Louis area or spent their formative or creative years here. It was designated as “One of the 10 Great Streets in America” by the American Planning Association.

Head to the National Blues Museum, located on Washington Ave between 6th and 7th streets and celebrate the genre as the foundation of all modern American music. Walk around and discover an entertaining environment that includes high impact technology driven experiences, a state-of-the-art theater, and artifact-driven exhibits.

Scott Joplin was a famous pianist and composer who achieved fame for his ragtime compositions. He is known widely as the “King of Ragtime.” You can visit the house Joplin and his wife, Belle, lived in for some time. The Scott Joplin House State Historic Site plays some of his famous melodies as you walk through the modest flat on Delmar Boulevard. It is furnished and lit by gaslight as if it were 1902 when Joplin spent time there composing some of his famous songs.

Take a stroll through the George Washington Carver Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The inspirational garden honors the life and accomplishments of the famous scientist who greatly influenced 19th and 20th-century agriculture and education. The focal point of the garden is a life-size bronze statue of Carver sculpted by Tina Allen. The garden is one and a half acres and features inspirational inscriptions from Carver’s writings and speeches, a reflecting pool and is landscaped with viburnums, hydrangeas, and holly trees to give it an intimate feel.

Check out the Missouri History Museum for Black history programming throughout the month. Their newest addition of “See STL Walking Tours” includes a walking tour of “The Ville” which is home to several Grammy Award winners, rock and roll hall of famers, Kennedy Center honorees, one of the first Black woman millionaires, three Grand Slam titleholders, the founder of the first Black collegiate sorority, and a chemist who worked on the atomic bomb.

The St. Louis Wall of Fame is one of the many murals you can find along Manchester in The Grove. The mural located on the side of Gramophone pays homage to some of St. Louis’ greatest musicians, writers and actors including Henry Armstrong, Maya Angelou, Chuck Berry, Nelly, Miles Davis and more. If it’s lunch or dinner time, consider grabbing a bite from any number of the restaurants located nearby.

Check out the St.Louis County Public Library’s website for the 2021 Black History Celebration Enriching Culture with Hope and Healing, including a variety of online educational and inspirational events throughout February.  All events will be held virtually via Zoom or on the Library’s Facebook page.

The Field House Museum has two exhibits, both of which are excellent ways to celebrate Black History Month. The first, learn about the trail of blazers of the Black literacy movement and discover the impressive work of modern African American Authors in the Power of Worlds: The ongoing Tale of Black Children’s Literature. Second, celebrate Annie Malone, a pioneer African American entrepreneur, civil rights activites in the exhibit Moving Forward: Explore the Legacy of Annie Malone.

Although they are currently closed due to COVID, they are significant in their historical value and show the rich culture of the city. The Black Rep is the nation’s largest professional African-American theatre that presents contemporary and classic works by African American and international playwrights. Their season runs from September to June and shows are performed Wednesday through Sunday. The Griot Museum is the first black history wax museum in the Midwest and features more than 5,000 years of culture and history. You can take a walk through life-size wax figures, other art, artifacts, and memorabilia to interpret the stories of notable African Americans with a regional connection that has contributed to the development of our country. The Old Courthouse is one of America’s most important historic sites. It is where the notable Dred and Harriet Scott case was heard in 1847 when they were sued for their freedom. The last slave sale in St. Louis also took place on the steps of the courthouse in 1861 as a part of a property settlement. Inside the Old Courthouse, you will be able to walk through a featured exhibit called, “Dred Scott: A Legacy of Courage.”

There is so much rich history in our great city. Take some time this month to explore these attractions, embrace the culture of the city, and honor the lives and accomplishments of St. Louis’s most notable African American figures. Before you go, be sure to check the websites of all attractions to ensure availability and safety protocols due to COVID-19.

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