Missouri State Archives
Guide to African American History
As part of its overall mission, the Missouri State Archives collects photographic prints and negatives created by state and local government agencies that contribute to the photographic heritage of the state. In addition, the Archives accepts private donations that document the history of Missouri, government, and the City of Jefferson. Currently, the public can access approximately 200,000 prints, negatives, slides, and transparencies.
As Missouri's resources and government grew during the twentieth century, so to did its reliance on photography as a method of documentation. Government entities sought to record progress on state-mandated projects and significant events in Missouri history, as well as advertise the state as a great place to work and play. As photographic techniques became less cumbersome and more efficient, incorporating photography into the public record increased.
The following collections include images of interest to those researching Missouri's African American history.
Commerce & Industrial Development, 1946-1972; prints/negatives
Prior to the creation of the Division of Tourism, Commerce & Industrial Development was charged with "promoting the development of the state of Missouri and all its resources in order to provide a dynamic and balanced economy for the state." To accomplish this task, division photographers created a series of regional magazines and brochures highlighting Missouri's industrial, recreational, and agricultural strengths. "The Delta Area of Missouri" was one such magazine. This series of photographs documents the entire cotton industry in southeast Missouri. Other magazines document the urban areas of Kansas City and St. Louis.
Duke Diggs Collection, 1900-1940; 7 5x7 copy prints/1 4x5 negative
Duke and Estella Diggs were a leading African American family in Jefferson City who helped establish and build the Jefferson City Community Center. The center opened its doors in 1942 for the purpose of serving the needs of the city's black population. Duke Diggs was also a prominent businessman in the community. This collection, loaned for copying by descendant Doris Morris, contains photographs of the Diggs family, the original Second Baptist Church in Jefferson City, and Diggs' moving service at 526 Lafayette Street.
Kansas City Parks & Recreation Collection, 1900-1960; 1500 copy negatives
This collection documents the construction and improvement of Kansas City's parks, boulevards, and avenues. It also features many prominent landmarks in Kansas City such as the Liberty Memorial and the County Club Plaza. Within this collection are negatives depicting African American children playing at the Paseo swimming pool on 17th Street; Garrison Square at 5th and Troost; and Crews Square Park at 27th and Woodland. This collection shows the segregation of public spaces throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
Kansas City Urban League Photograph Collection, 1920s-1950s; copy prints/copy negatives
This collection is a visual component to the Kansas City Urban League records contained on microfilm at the Missouri State Archives. The photographs document League activities such as training classes, conferences, and meetings, and also include portraits and recreational pursuits.
Missouri Department of Corrections, 1950s-1980s; black/white prints, color prints
The Department of Corrections photograph collection primarily contains images of inmate life and activities in the Jefferson City Correctional Center, formerly known as the Missouri State Penitentiary; images of professional boxer Sonny Liston are included. Inmates are also shown working on the various farms throughout the state. Individual inmate photographs are not included in this collection, and the inmates shown are not identifed.
Missouri Human Rights Commission, 1959-1972; scrapbook
The Missouri Commission on Human Rights is charged with providing equitable and timely resolutions of discrimination claims through enforcement of the Missouri Human Rights Act. Since its creation in 1957, it has been instrumental in documenting the reality of racial discrimination in Missouri. Photographs in the scrapbook include governors James T. Blair, John M. Dalton, and Warren Hearnes. Commission meetings, member and staff portraits, commission dinners and other events comprise the bulk of this collection.
Office of the Secretary of State, Publications Division, 1934-1992; black/white prints, color prints
The Missouri State Archives routinely collects the photographs that are included in the Official Manual of the State of Missouri, published biennially. Official portraits of elected officials, department heads, commission and board members, and other state government employees comprise the bulk of this collection. Also included are photographs pertaining to Missouri institutions, such as Lincoln University and the State Industrial Home for Negro Girls in Tipton, as well as portraits of famous Missourians, including George Washington Carver and Satchel Paige.
Randolph County African American Portrait Collection, 1900-1920s; 68 5x7 copy prints, 68 4x5 negatives
The photographs in this collection are of African American men, women, and children from the Randolph County, Missouri area. Most are formal studio portraits taken in Moberly, Missouri, although a few were taken in Jefferson City, St. Louis, and St. Joseph studios. Included as well are informal, outside shots. A variety of poses and styles of dress are depicted in this collection, which was donated for copying by the Missouri State Museum.