Columbia Public Library to celebrate Black History Month



The Columbia Public Library has several events planned in celebration of Black History Month.

Public Services Librarian Marilyn McLeod, who organized the events, said the library tries to organize special programs for events such as Black History Month and Women’s History Month because they provide an opportunity to focus on the related topics.

The library always presents programs for Black History Month, and this year they will be hosting events with local connections.

“There is always going to be great interest in local people, especially if they’re renowned in something,” McLeod said.

Tom Bass, Missouri Horseman

At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15, Christal Bruner, headquarters librarian for the Mexico-Audrain County Library District, will speak about Tom Bass, a man who was born on a plantation near Ashland in southern Boone County and became a prominent figure in the saddle horse industry in the 1900s.

Bruner said she has done research on Bass and his life and accomplishments and will present some of that information at the event. She also said that if anyone who is related to Bass attends the event, she would love to hear their stories.

The event will also take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 21 at the Southern Boone County Senior Center in Ashland.

The Story of Blind Boone

Another event will feature the life of John William “Blind” Boone. Despite losing his eyesight as child as a result of a disease, Boone became a famous ragtime pianist and composer. His Columbia home is on the National Register of Historic Places and is currently being restored.

McLeod said someone recommended Mike Shaw, a man involved in the restoration of Boone’s Columbia house, and she contacted him to set up the event. She expects him to give some information about Boone’s life and the restorations planned for Boone’s home. The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17.

Summary Justice

James Scott was an African-American man who was accused of raping a professor’s daughter and lynched in 1923. MU Associate Professor Emeritus Doug Hunt, who wrote the book “Summary Justice” about what happened to Scott, will speak at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24.

Hunt said his presentation will be the latest in a series of events held about Scott since November, part of a larger community attempt to come to terms with the incident. On April 30, a monument will be placed on Scott’s grave.

Hunt said he plans to present a “you were there” recreation of the events of April 28 and 29, 1923, when Scott was lynched by a mob with 2,000 spectators.

“In a way, what I’m trying to do is bring people back to look at that moment,” he said.

African-American Genealogy Research in Missouri

Genealogist Traci Wilson-Kleekamp will present at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 5. McLeod said genealogy often requires a lot of sleuthing and can be more difficult for African-Americans because there are years for which it is hard to find any information.

“Each family has its own path to follow to find out details if no one has kept a record,” McLeod said.

McLeod said a lot of the information from the programs could be found in books or on the Internet, but noted it might be helpful to hear about others’ experiences.

“It’s always nice to have a knowledgeable person come in and share what they have learned through their own research,” she said.

To register for the genealogy event with Wilson-Kleekamp, call (573) 443-3161. The other three events are open and do not require registration.


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