A Walk Through Black History in St. Louis

Sunday January 23, 2022

By Mark

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.

Although it’s closed for a few weeks for some repairs, visit the website and social media channels of the National Blues Museum and celebrate the Blues genre as the foundation of all modern American music. Learn about upcoming events and make plans to visit this spring where you will 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.

As American soldiers fought to free Europe in World War II, Black civilians fought for better opportunities and greater freedoms at home. Join Soldiers Memorial Military Museum at 11 am on February 18th for a discussion on the March on Washington Movement, an important predecessor to the post-war Civil Rights Movement, with David Lucander, author of Winning the War for Democracy: The March on Washington Movement, 1941-1946. Entry to both the museum and the program is free.

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 2022 Black History Celebration Still We Rise with Resilience and Brilliance, including a variety of online educational and inspirational events throughout February.  All events will be held virtually.

Come together with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and IN UNISON Chorus to celebrate music of African American and African traditions, and their influence on St. Louis and the world in the February 25 Lift Every Voice Concert. This annual evening of reflective and soulful music is one to remember. Kevin McBeth conducts this concert and Capathia Jenkins is the vocal soloist.

Ebony and Jet were the magazines to read for Black perspectives on lifestyle, culture, and politics during the heyday of the magazine industry. The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis hosts a community conversation about these two iconic publications for its free program RE: Ebony and Jet. We ask the question, What does Ebony and Jet mean to you? Meanwhile, before or after the moderated discussion, check out acclaimed artist Lorna Simpson's videos on CAM's street facade, which feature images from vintage editions of Ebony and Jet, enhanced with shimmering, watercolor hairdos.

Nine PBS is proud to celebrate Black History Month in February to commemorate important people and events, but programs that center on the Black experience appear year-round on Nine PBS’s schedule. Sharing stories about the St. Louis community is what Nine PBS does best. Two programs about trailblazing Black citizens who are from the region are set to air in February including In Thier Own Words: Chuck Berry (February 1) and My Journey with Annie Malone: James Agbara Bryson (February 14). Click here for a full schedule of Black History Month programming

Temporarily closed for renovations, 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.”

Hosted by Great Rivers Greenway, the Mother Wit Virtual Book discussion is features the author reading a short excerpt and then be joined by her sister Gwen Moore, curator at the Missouri Historical Society, followed by participant Q&A moderated by journalist Jade Harrell. Having grown up in the Mill Creek Valley community, Dr. Horne’s book is “a moving tribute to a devoted mother whose determination, dedication and strong character allowed her family to breach barriers of race, class and economic want to achieve measurable success.” – Gwen Moore

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.

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.