The historic central Missouri town of Arrow Rock is opening a special exhibit today that remembers an overlooked part of its history–and an often-overlooked part of history in many Missouri towns. Arrow Rock, the home of two governors, three first ladies, Missouri’s greatest 19th century artist and a history-making doctor is creating a history of the town’s African Americans.
No black people are among the 56 people who make Arrow Rock their fulltime home now. But executive director Kathy Borgman with the Friends of Arrow Rock says one-third to one-half of the population of Saline County before the Civil War was slaves. Fifteen years after the war, one-fourth of Arrow Rock’s population was black.
The exhibit covers the years after the salves were freed and could afford their own homes and businesses from the Reconstruction era to the end of Jim Crow laws in the 1960d. “It is unique in that it tells our story,” she says, ‘and yet I think that what was happening in Arrow Rock was indicative of what was happening in a number of communities in Missouri, and especially here along the river.”
She says the effort was first discussed about twenty years ago. The museum is housed in a surviving lodge building used by black citizens of Arrow Rock, one of the few buildings left from a time when African-Americans were a significant, but segregated part of the town.