Missouri State Archives
Guide to African American History
Introduction to Guide
Since statehood, there has not been a time when the government of Missouri has not figured in the lives of its citizens. This involvement has resulted in hundreds of millions of pages of information documenting everything from vital statistics to court cases and hundreds of topics in between. Information about all of Missouri's citizens, regardless of race, sex, or ethnic group, is available in official government records such as reports, correspondence, petitions, surveys, and more. The Missouri State Archives, created in 1965 as a division of the Office of the Secretary of State, is the officially designated repository for all state records of permanent value. Its mission is to identify, collect, preserve, and make available to elected officials, state government, historians, students, genealogists, and the general public the permanent and historically valuable records of Missouri's state and local governments that document the origins, development, and activities of the state of Missouri.
The purpose of this Guide to African American History is to bring together in one place - for the first time - the many and varied records available at the Missouri State Archives to document Missouri's black heritage. The records listed here will help increase our collective knowledge regarding the role and importance of African Americans in Missouri history.
The Guide references documents created at all levels of government: local, state, and federal. The records span time from Missouri's territorial government to today's life in the twenty-first century. Some themes include slavery, abolition, emancipation, Civil War and Reconstruction, civil rights, and segregation, as well as information about health, marriages, education, and economic development. The variety of records is immense, ranging from surveys to census records and including reports, correspondence, meeting minutes, muster rolls, war service cards, scrapbooks, legislative bill packets, and court records. The formats are varied, as well, and include paper, microfilm, photographs, and audio materials. The Guide is not a comprehensive manual for all archival collections, but rather a sampling of what is available to interested researchers. It is an ongoing project to provide access to materials about the African American experience in Missouri and, as such, will be updated periodically.
The Guide is arranged in the traditional archival method, using record groups, assigned specific numbers, to identify official records of the various elected officials and state agencies. For example, Record Group 005 includes all African American records encompassed within the collections of the Office of the Secretary of State. In this guide, the record groups are arranged numerically, beginning with Record Group 000 and ending with Record Group 952; unnumbered collections follow. A brief history of the elected office or state agency precedes the descriptions of available records. Within each record group are individual record series. Using Record Group 005 as an example again, we see that there are series for Elections, Commissions, and Special Collections; each of those has smaller sub-series designations for specific records. For this guide, these record series are primarily arranged in chronological order within the record group designation; occasionally, the record series are arranged alphabetically.
Those using the Guide will see that specific examples, such as letters or court cases, are cited within the descriptive text and hyperlinks are provided to specific documents. Additional information is generally available within the same group of records; since the Guide is wide-ranging in scope, it was not possible to incorporate an item-by-item listing of all records relating to Missouri's African American history. Additionally, if particular record groups are not listed in this Guide, it does not mean that information about black Missourians is not available. Rather, many record compilations do not reflect race or gender and are not included in this preliminary version. For example, it is certain that African American drugstore owners, midwives, and surgeons existed in twentieth century Missouri. However, the Board of Registration records listing the names of persons in these occupations does not indicate race. Therefore, if a researcher knows the specific name of a person or institution, information is available; aggregate information about African Americans in such occupations is more difficult to assemble. The Guide to African American Records in the Missouri State Archives should be used in conjunction with other published finding aids at the Archives.
The development of this Guide unearthed a rich collection of records. The information available can be used to understand and appreciate Missouri's African American heritage, as well as serve as a guide to the state's future.
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