The Missouri History Museum in St Louis is a marvel. It mounts excellent, free shows that mostly showcase local events. Because they often have national impact, information about them would appeal to those just visiting this historic city in the American Midwest with the famous Arch. On October 28, 2016, I wrote about one of its shows called “Route 66, Once St. Louis’ Main Street”. Luckily, it’s still there and will be until July 16, 2017. You still have time to see it, and on March 11 it added another impressive presentation.
“#1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis” will be up until April 15, 2018. It’s worth seeing even if you’re a temporary visitor because some of the cases covered were local events that changed history for everyone in our country.
I always benefit from seeing a great attraction like the Missouri History Museum a 2nd, or 3rd, time. When Ruth and I stopped in to see Route 66 last year, I delighted in its World’s Fair exhibit and others. However, I completely missed its tribute to national hero Charles Lindbergh. Although he wasn’t born there, Lindbergh had St. Louis connections. In 1925 he was a flight instructor there and flying a mail route to Chicago. The next year he made history by being the first person to fly solo across The Atlantic. One period newspaper article on display noted that the St. Louis backers of his successful flight asked him to crate his airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, and bring it home by steamship for exhibition at Lambert Field. It’s now in The Smithsonian.
“#1 in Civil Rights” covers events from the Dred Scott Decision to Ferguson. It also focuses on lesser known local happenings that sent ripples nationally. It notes, for example, that the 1st Civil Rights demonstration in the country occurred in St. Louis in 1819. Participants were protesting the entrance of Missouri into the Union as a slave state. Slaves Dred and Harriet Scott sued Irene Emerson for their freedom 27 years later. Emerson had taken them to live in free territory, Kansas, so the Scotts felt entitled to be treated as free beings. It took more than 10 years for their case to be ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court, and its decision led inexorably to the Civil War. That’s Harriet below.
A lesser known case that really interested me involved Lloyd Gaines. In 1936 he applied to the University of Missouri Law School and was denied admission. Only 2 years later the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the university had to either admit him or establish a separate law school for African-Americans that offered equal training. This foreshadowed the famous Brown versus the Board of Education decision in 1954 that banned public school segregation. What subsequently happened to Gaines, the display notes, is not known. That’s him below.
Cases involving neighborhood segregation, employment, who can use public swimming pools, etc. are thoughtfully covered in this exhibit that notes that the first Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t made by Abraham Lincoln. It was Major General John C. Frémont who issued that edict more than a year before the 16th President.