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ARPA Black Archives Grant

Black Archives Museum of St. Joseph

I am so excited to share our final report with you on the use of the $5,000 of funding from the Missouri Humanities Council ARPA Grant for the Black Archives Museum of St. Joseph. This funding allowed us to really bring the humanities into our community to some of our most underserved populations.

After the Civil War the Missouri legislature passed the Constitution of 1865 which banned slavery and provided free (but segregated) public education for the children of the State. The new law provided education for black children in townships where the population exceeded 20 school-aged children. In an 1875 census, St. Joseph, Missouri had 570 school-aged black children in the district. But it would not be until 1885 that “colored schools” were created to serve the community. In 1887, the district secured property on the corner of 18th & Angelique Streets and built the Colored High School. After a fire in 1904, the school was rebuilt and renamed Bartlett High. It served as the only High School for black students in the St. Joseph area until desegregation in 1954.

This project allowed the Black Archives Museum of St. Joseph the funds to create interpretive panels for the newly renovated Bartlett Gym, which is such an important historical site in St. Joseph. It also helped us digitize the Black Archives Museum Collection which can be found on-line here: https://hub.catalogit.app/5441/folder/112966a0-c098-11eb-87b0-2993be203d9f. Finally, it allowed us the funding to update some exhibit panels in the Black Archives Museum.

I remember clearly the day that the large pennant banners were finally installed in the gym. Each image selected is so special. One of the images on the pennants is a picture of the 1954 men’s basketball team from Bartlett High. They were the first team to play against a white school in St. Joseph. It has been so important to our community to learn about the history of the site and take pride in our black history, but also acknowledge and learn from those decades of segregation in our country. It is truly amazing and transformative to see the newly renovated gym, with the historical interpretation, being used by the community for basketball games, practices, community events, and educational programming. We look forward to showcasing the gym during Juneteenth 2023 this upcoming year and have lots of events planned with the Bartlett Center. I will note that this project and partnership was highlighted by the American Alliance of Museums Accreditation Site Visitors as exemplary practice in the museum field.  So, again, thank you so much for providing the support for this project.