by Caitlin Yager and Lisa Carrico
Program Directors, Missouri Humanities
Like other states in our nation, Missouri’s culture, history, and demographics have been influenced both by people descended from different places across the world as well as Indigenous peoples with ancestral ties to this land. Our state has also been undeniably influenced and morphed by how various peoples made these movements and by advances in transportation, whether on the river, the railroads, or the highways.
Through both in-person public programming and digital content, we aim to explore what has influenced the movement of people into, out of, and within our state and take a glance at how both chosen and forced migrations and changes in transportation throughout our state’s history have shaped Missouri and continue to weave a tapestry of diverse cultures that ultimately define and redefine this place.
As our nation approaches our semiquincentennial in 2026, the National Endowment for the Humanities has been emphasizing the theme #OutofMany, calling upon the United States’ motto e pluribus unum, or “out of many, one.” While this motto has taken many meanings in our country’s almost 250 years, we can certainly claim one of those meanings as the unity of many different peoples, of different backgrounds, and from different places.
We’ve often heard that we are a nation of immigrants. Knowing who came from where, when they came, and what happened to them once they got here is central to understanding not just the history of the U.S., but also the history of Missouri. The immigrant experience has impacted the direction and growth of the state, and the various movements of people have influenced politics, population, demographics, and industrial growth. But we’d be remiss to focus solely on the experiences of immigrants. While much of our population is descended from immigrants, we also acknowledge that a large number are descended from those who were brought here by force. In addition, we must consider the stories and voices of those who were here before us, who were removed from their land, and still have cultural and ancestral ties to it.
Roots & Routes will examine these intricate layers of history and their impact on the past and present Missouri, which presents both a unique opportunity and a challenge to incorporate many stories from different perspectives as we explore this complex theme. We hope you’ll join us on this journey. Stay connected throughout our 2023 signature series by visiting mohumanities.org/movement, following us on social media @mohumanities, and subscribing to Missouri Humanities on YouTube and wherever you get your podcasts.