Missouri’s Black history is highlighted at locations and landmarks that share stories about events and people from the past who helped shape the state and the country.
African American Experience Museum – Arrow Rock
Brown’s Lodge No. 22 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons – a masonic lodge for Black residents – was established in Arrow Rock as early as 1877. It was one of four lodges in the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The building was restored to house the African American Experience Museum, which tells the story of achievement in the face of adversity.
American Jazz Museum – Kansas City
Relish the smooth sounds of jazz at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City. Located in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, the museum features the sights and sounds of jazz and the legends who made the music. Don’t miss the Blue Room, a jazz club where you can catch performances by talented artists from across the country.
The Battle of Island Mound was significant because it was the first Civil War battle during which Black soldiers engaged in combat. The soldiers, from the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry, established their headquarters at the site. Signs along a 0.5-mile trail at the Battle of Island Mount State Historic Site in Butler interpret the battle and its historical significance.
Black Archives of Mid-America – Kansas City
Located in a firehouse that was home to the first Black fire company in Kansas City, the Black Archives of Mid-America has been collecting and preserving materials and documents that detail the social, political and cultural history of Black Midwesterners since the 1970s. The organization develops traveling exhibits to educate others about the experience of Black citizens.
The George Washington Carver National Monument, located in Diamond, was the first national monument created to honor someone other than a U.S. president. The site includes a visitor center and museum that details Carver’s contributions to science and agriculture. A trail and picnic area provide opportunities to appreciate the beautiful scenery.
Grand River Historical Society Museum – Chillicothe
Built in 1868, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church of Chillicothe was the first AME church built north of the Missouri River after the Civil War. When it fell into disrepair after it closed in 2010, it was donated to the Grand River Historical Society. It has since been moved to the Grand River Historical Society museum and houses a Black history exhibit.
Jim’s Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center – Hannibal
One of Mark Twain’s most notable characters – Jim, from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – was a runaway slave who helped Huck recognize the humanity of enslaved people. Jim’s Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center in Hannibal is dedicated to the real man who inspired the character of Jim and memorializes the Black residents from the town’s past.
Soldier’s Memorial Plaza – Lincoln University, Jefferson City
Founded by free Black men who served as soldiers in the 62nd and 65th Colored Infantries during the Civil War, Lincoln University in Jefferson City was one of the first historically Black colleges in the United States. The Soldiers Memorial Plaza was built to honor its founders and their dream to provide education for Black students. The memorial depicts life-size bronze statues of men as they move toward “the future.”
National Blues Museum – St. Louis
Discover the foundation of all modern music at the National Blues Museum in St. Louis. Hands-on, technology-driven exhibits allow visitors to create their own music and learn about the blues from its beginnings to the modern day. The museum frequently has live music performances in the Legends Room and holds a weekly jam session called Sittin’ on the Porch.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum – Kansas City
Get out on the field with real baseball legends. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum tells the story of Black baseball players who did not let segregation stop them from playing – and excelling – at the sport they loved. The Field of Legends is a replica baseball diamond with life-size statues of some of the Negro Leagues greatest players, including Jackie Robinson.
Dedicated as a state historic site in 2021, Sappington African American Cemetery State Historic Site recognizes the Black residents of Arrow Rock’s early days – many of whom were formerly enslaved. Panels at the site provide information about the sacrifice and resiliency of the Black individuals whose contributions made an impact not only on Arrow Rock, but the state as a whole.
Scott Joplin House State Historic Site – St. Louis
Legendary musician Scott Joplin lived in St. Louis when he wrote some of his most famous ragtime pieces, including “The Entertainer.” The building where Joplin lived has been restored and furnished with period-appropriate pieces and information about his life. A player piano serenades guests with Joplin’s melodies as they tour the rooms.
The Black Archives Museum – St. Joseph
Learn about the ways the Black citizens of St. Joseph impacted the city through their leadership, talents and innovation at the Black Archives Museum. Exhibits focus on the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, desegregation, music, sports and more. The archives include a collection of materials available to the public for research by appointment.
The Griot Museum of Black History – St. Louis
Named after the highly respected storytellers of West Africa, the Griot Museum in St. Louis is similarly dedicated to telling the stories of Black Americans throughout history. The museum illustrates the experiences of these individuals through art, artifacts, memorabilia and life-size wax figures. Interactive exhibits help visitors connect to the history on display.