History in Wax Woman Founds Museum to Honor Blacks with a Missouri Connection

Article excerpt

Five years ago, Lois D. Conley single-handedly set out to reach an extraordinary goal - to establish Missouri's first Black World History Wax Museum.

She has succeeded.

On Feb. 1, Conley is planning a grand opening ceremony at the museum, 2505 St. Louis Avenue. The museum is the first of its kind in the Midwest and only the second in the nation. "The museum was completed on a wing and a prayer," Conley said. The theme is blacks who have a Missouri connection, she said. When the museum opens, visitors will see life-size wax figures wearing period clothing in their historical setting. Recorded narration and printed text will provide visitors with the historical context of the lives of the people represented. Also, visitors will be able to browse through historical documents, artifacts and memorabilia in a resource library. Among African-Americans featured in the museum will be: The Rev. John Berry Meacham. A former slave and pastor of the First African Baptist Church, he built a steamboat on the Mississippi River and used it as a "floating school" for blacks. Missouri law prohibited blacks from being educated in the 1840s and 1850s. George Washington Carver. A botanist, educator and agricultural chemist who emerged from slavery, he lived in Diamond Grove, Mo., the first 12 years of his life. A school and community center in St. Louis are named in his honor. Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley. Born a slave in Virginia, she grew up to become the dressmaker to First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. For a time, she lived with the Garland family in St. Louis. In the spring of 1860, she left here and traveled to Baltimore. William Wells Brown. A slave who moved from Kentucky to St. Charles County in 1816. He later moved with his master's family to a farm in St. Louis. He was an anti-slavery spokesman and known as America's first black novelist. James Milton Turner. He served as secretary of the Missouri Equal Rights League, the state's first black political activist organization. He supported black suffrage and black access to education. …


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