St. Louis Celebrates Black History Month With A Flurry of Events

Wednesday February 5, 2014

Celebrate-Black-History-MonFebruary is Black History Month, and few places in the U.S. will give you a more meaningful Black History Month experience than St. Louis.

After all, people of African descent have played a large role in St. Louis since the city’s founding in 1764. Early census figures show blacks, both free and slave, lived in St. Louis from its earliest days under French and Spanish colonial rule.

And, more than a century later, slave Dred Scott and his wife sued for his freedom here. The case went to the U. S. Supreme Court resulting in the historic decision that became one of the factors leading to the Civil War and the end of slavery.

Here, too, America’s first Black woman entrepreneur–Madame C. J. Walker–built her business. And musician Scott Joplin whose music not only entertained the people of his era but also influenced generations of other musicians had St. Louis roots.

To celebrate the rich thread Black history has woven into the fabric of St. Louis’s past, local institutions are planning many special events for Black History Month. Here is a sampling:


Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty
What: An exhibition exploring the paraodox of Thomas Jefferson who drafted the Declaration of Independence and called slavery an “abominable crime,” yet was a lifelong slaveholder. The exhibit explores Jefferson’s ideas and slavery at his plantation, a difficult topic in American history, and provides a glimpse into the lives of six slave families living at Monticello. It features more than 280 objects from Monticello’s collection, including Jefferson’s personal items as well as artifacts from archaeological excavations at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation.
When: Through March 2
Where: Missouri History Museum, Lindell and DeBaliviere, Forest Park, St. Louis
Cost: Free


Black History Month Film Series
What: Film series on African American inventors, leaders, and visionaries who fought for freedom and equality; the history of the Old Courthouse and the Dred Scott trial. Films change weekly: Feb. 1-7, Frederick Douglass, An American Life; Feb. 8-14, Booker T. Washington: Looking to Learn’; Feb. 15-21, Carver: Man of Vision; Feb 22-28, Never Lose Sight of Freedom.
When: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., daily during February. The film “Dred Scott: Freedom of Trial” will be shown at the Old Courthouse at the top of every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Old Courthouse, 11 North 4th Street, St. Louis. The Old Courthouse is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial that includes the Gateway Arch.
Cost: Free

The Trials of Muhammad Ali

What: A film covering the crossroads of Ali’s life–his change of name, his conversion to Islam, his refusal to serve in boxing that got him banned from boxing and facing a prison sentence. Followed by a panel discussion featuring Dr. Stefan Bradley, Associate Professor of History, Saint Louis University. This program is part of the Community Cinema series, which features free monthly screenings of a films scheduled for broadcast on the Emmy Award–winning PBS Series Independent Lens, followed by related discussions and activities. It is *Presented by Nine Network of Public Media and the Missouri History Museum, in collaboration with Independent Lens and Independent Television Service
When: 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 5
Where: Missouri History Museum, Lindell and DeBaliviere, Forest Park, St. Louis
Cost: Free


The Architecture of Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello: An Archaeological Perspective
What: Archaeologists working at Monticello and other Chesapeake plantations have recently discovered that the 18th century witnessed important changes in the layout and use of the houses of enslaved laborers and mansions of their owners. Fraser Neiman, director of archaeology at Monticello, offers this talk. Presented by the Mound City Chapter of the Missouri Archaeological Society.
When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 4
Where: Missouri History Museum, Lindell and DeBaliviere, Forest Park, St. Louis
Cost: Free

Changing Agricultural and Social Landscapes at Monticello
What:  Fraser Neiman uses archaeological evidence to reveal dramatic shifts in agricultural ecology and plantation spatial organization that resulted from the late 18th century’s tobacco-to-wheat transition and the ways in which Thomas Jefferson coped.
Presented by the Mound City Chapter of the Missouri Archaeological Society
When: 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 5
Where:  Missouri History Museum, Lindell and DeBaliviere, Forest Park, St. Louis
Cost: Free

Invisible No More: Proclaiming Our Visibility
What: A panel discussion on the role of women of color in America.
When: 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 9
Where: Missouri History Museum, Lindell and DeBaliviere, Forest Park, St. Louis
Cost: Free

Black History Month Keynote Speaker
What: Acclaimed Washington Post reporter and New York Times bestselling author, Wil Haygood will speak on “Civil Rights in America.”  Haygood is the author of The Butler, A Witness to History which served as the basis for the award winning movie The Butler, starring Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, and Cuba Gooding Jr. When:  2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 9
Where: St. Louis Public Library, Central Library, 1301 Olive, St. Louis
Cost:    Free

Ayana Mathis
What: New York Times bestseller Ayana Mathis discusses her debut novel, “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie,” which follows the trials of an unforgettable African American family. The family includes 15 year-old Hattie Shepherd, who flees the South during the Great Migration, and her nine children whose lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation.
When: 7 p.m., Feb. 15
Where: St. Louis County Library Headquarters, 1640 N. Lindbergh, Ladue
Cost: Free


Celebrate the Gospel Concert
What: Celebrate the Gospel concert featuring the First Baptist Church of Chesterfield choir performing traditional and modern renditions of inspirational gospel music.
When:  3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 9
Where: Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis
Cost: Included with Garden admission: $8 adults; $4 for St. Louis City/County residents. Free for children ages 12 and under.

Lift Every Voice: Black History Month Celebration
What: A concert that celebrates African and African-American culture that has enriched the lives of people around the world. It features Webster University alum and Hollywood diva Jenifer Lewis and the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON® Chorus.
When: 7:30 p.m., Feb. 14
Where: Powell Symphony Hall, 718 N. Grand, St. Louis
Cost: $20-25


For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf
What:  This Tony Award-winning drama by Ntzoke Shange, presented by the Black Rep, depicts the struggles, obstacles and inspiring strength of African-American women.
When: 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday through Feb. 9 ; 2 p.m. Sunday matinee, Feb. 9
Where: Missouri History Museum, Lindell and De Baliviere, Forest Park, St. Louis
Cost: Various prices

Other Programs

Black History in the West
What: Interpretive programs in the Museum of Westward Expansion about African American history and its role in Westward Expansion.
When: Saturdays at 11:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. and Sundays at 3:15 p.m., Feb.  8-9, 15-16, 22-23
Where: Museum of Westward Expansion at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial  (Gateway Arch)
Cost: Free

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