Race and Meaning: The African American Experience in Missouri

Race and Meaning: The African American Experience in Missouri

Race and Meaning: The African American Experience in Missouri

Race and Meaning: The African American Experience in Missouri

Synopsis

No one has written more about the African American experience in Missouri over the past four decades than Gary Kremer, and now for the first time fourteen of his best articles on the subject are available in one place with the publication of Race and Meaning: The African American Experience in Missouri. By placing the articles in chronological order of historical events rather than by publication date, Kremer combines them into one detailed account that addresses issues such as the transition from slavery to freedom for African Americans in Missouri, all-black rural communities, and the lives of African Americans seeking new opportunities in Missouri’s cities.

In addition to his previously published articles, Kremer includes a personal introduction revealing how he first became interested in researching African American history and how his education at Lincoln University--and specifically the influence of his mentor, Lorenzo Greene--helped him to realize his eventual career path. Race and Meaning makes a collection of largely unheard stories spanning much of Missouri history accessible for the first time in one place, allowing each article to be read in the context of the others, and creating a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Whether you are a student, researcher, or general reader, this book will be essential to anyone with an interest in Missouri history.

Excerpt

“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the
color-line, the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men”

W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

I have been deeply interested in “the color line” for most of my life. Like W. E. B. DuBois, I think that the dominant “problem” of the twentieth century, certainly for Americans, has been race. For nearly half a century, I have devoted the bulk of my professional life to studying, researching, and writing about race in Missouri history. That is an improbable journey for someone who grew up during the 1950s in one of the most homogenous all-white communities in the state. I knew one African American as a child, a middle-aged man named Oscar “Toad” Anthony, a World War ii veteran who lived in the small mid-Missouri town of Chamois in northeastern Osage County. Although I did not know it at the time, Toad was the last member of what had once been a thriving African American community of hundreds of persons in and near Chamois that dated to the antebellum days of slavery.

I had no African American schoolmates or playmates. Once, when I was twelve and playing baseball on a team of similarly aged boys from the nearby town of Linn, I came face-to-face for the first time with some African American boys, also my age, from Jefferson City. I had never encountered a black person my own age. a group of us, white and black, stood making small talk around the pitcher’s mound of a baseball field, while all the time I tried to muster the courage to reach out and shake . . .

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