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African American Heritage Trail tells another side of Columbia’s history

African American Heritage Trail tells the other side of Columbia's history


As James Whitt explained the history of Sharp End, a once-thriving block for minority-owned business, he points to the black and gold plaque hanging at least a foot above his head.

This plaque and 22 others line the 2-mile-long African American Heritage Trail in the heart of Columbia. Each plaque tells just one piece of the 200-year history Black people have created in mid-Missouri.

"This is the very first marker our committee worked on and it tells the history of the Sharp End business community," Whitt said of the Sharp End plaque.

Whitt was on the committee that created this trail. Its goal was to share the untold history of Columbia's Black residents.

"Black, white, whoever lived and grew up here, we want to make sure the whole story is told from the perspective of the person who grew up here," Whitt said.

Politicians across the nation--and right here in Missouri--have been debating how American history should be taught in public schools.

Jerome Morris, a president endowment scholar with the University of Missouri - St. Louis, said instead of critiquing how Black people tell their stories, people should be questioning the white American history.

"It should be about how do we get our young people to think scholarly critical, not to be reactionary, in terms of the way we think about these issues, to think about it like as like just scholarly debate," Morris said.

Whitt hopes the African American Heritage Trail will provide that other side of American history--at least for Columbia.

"It's important that when you're you know teaching history that you have a complete and true understanding of what the history really is," Whitt said.

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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