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The Rise and Fall of Missouri’s
Black Business Districts
The end of the Civil War brought radical changes in the lifestyles of individuals freed from the constraints of the abominable institution called slavery.
Though legally free, they were thrust unprepared into a new and challenging world; competing for economic and physical existence alongside members of the dominant society, who for centuries had benefited from the advantages of the institutionally privileged and prospered from the financial benefits of forced, unpaid labor.
Nonetheless, the same resilience that allowed them to survive slavery was brought to bear in the struggle to make their way in a new social order. Though considered free, the constraints binding them to the status of second class citizens were still in effect; iron chains and shackles replaced by a set of restrictive ordinances called Jim Crow Laws, enforcing segregation and ensuring economic disparity.
In order to survive, many remained on the land of those who enslaved them, trapped in a one-sided sharecropping relationship requiring them to labor in an unprofitable partnership with no prospects of relief.
Others migrated to populated areas in adjoining or distant states, seeking a better life for them and their families. But even there, opportunities for employment were scarce. Many communities would not accept their trade or allow them to settle in established neighborhoods.
As a result Blacks began to develop their own businesses and build their own neighborhoods, even though access to financial capital was restricted through policies such as 'red lining', and educational opportunities were limited. Fortunately, two institutions which remain important today, churches and schools, served to stabilize neighborhoods in these communities.
The Boom Exhibit is an effort to provide a comprehensive, insightful and historically accurate record of the formation, growth and demise of Black Commercial Districts in America and a look into the lives and motivation of the individuals associated with these remarkable efforts.
The establishment of restaurants, insurance companies, groceries, clothing stores, construction firms, beauty parlors and many other enterprises so vital to the pride and pulse of a thriving community are an integral and often underappreciated component of the Black experience.
With that in mind The Black Archives of St. Joseph, part of the St. Joseph Museums Inc., is pleased to announce the BOOM Exhibit; an enlightening display highlighting the legacy of Black-owned business districts in the state of Missouri.
Co-sponsoring this event is the Missouri State Museum and Missouri State Parks, a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
The Boom Exhibit will be displayed at the East Hills Mall from January to June, 2020, as well as other sites in the local community.
If you share in our affinity for bringing the impressive history of St. Joseph’s Black owned businesses and entrepreneurs to light, you can contribute by providing artifacts, photographs, or articles we can display and inform others of this interesting and important time.
The contact number of the St. Joseph Museums is (816)232-8471. If you wish to maintain possession of the article or photograph, we are able to make a copy of it so that you may keep the original item.