african-american history

A Place for All People: Introducing the National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Smithsonian Institution opened the National Museum of African American History and Culture on September 24, 2016. The celebration continues and reaches beyond Washington, D.C. to Joplin, Missouri, as we present “A Place for All People: Introducing the National Museum of African American History and Culture.” This commemorative poster exhibition, which is comprised of twenty 11″ x 17″ posters, will be on view in our Local History, Genealogy, and Post Reading Room wing from February 1-28, 2019.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “A Place for All People” highlights key artifacts that tell the rich and diverse story of the African American experience. From the child-size shackles of a slave and the clothing worn by Carlotta Walls on her first day at Little Rock Central High School to Chuck Berry’s Gibson guitar, “Maybellene,” and the track shoes worn by Olympian Carl Lewis, the exhibition presents a living history that reflects challenge, triumph, faith, and hope.

The journey to establish this museum began long ago with a call for a national memorial to honor the contributions of African American Civil War veterans. After decades of efforts by private citizens, organizations and members of Congress, federal legislation was passed in 2003 to create the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Since then, thousands of artifacts have been collected to fill the inspiring building that has risen on the National Mall. Through its exhibitions and programs, the museum provides a shared lens to view the nation’s history and the possibility for hope and healing. It is a place where all can gather to remember, reflect, and embrace America’s story: a place for all people. For more information, visit

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washing, D.C., for over 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science, and history, which are shown wherever people live, work, and play. For exhibition description and tour schedules, visit

Lincoln School

This is the Lincoln School building, a former school of the Joplin R-8 School District, that once stood on the 800 block of East 7th Street. Predating desegregation, it was Joplin’s only school for black students, serving not only Joplin’s African-American community, but often that of neighboring towns.
This building was opened in 1908, with primary grades on the main floor, secondary on the second floor, and other rooms, including the dining room, in the basement. The building was updated in 1926, 1930, and again in 1950, just four years before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of desegregation. Following integration, the school was used for special education. It was closed in 1975, changed hands over the years, and was razed to make way for a car dealership in 1988. 
Lincoln School is a significant part of Joplin’s heritage. Not only did it serve as an anchor for African-Americans living in Joplin, but did so through landmark times for black people in America. Lincoln School was regarded as much more than that by those it served–it was a community center. During what was likely the last tour of Lincoln School before demolition, Thelma Meeks said, “It was a community center, because, you know, that’s all we had—the school and the church.”
Lincoln’s rich history–including its association with boundary-breaking community leaders Marion Dial and Melissa Cuther–makes it eligible for recognition as one of Joplin’s Local Landmark sites.
Months ago, members of the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission, a representative from the Emancipation Celebration committee, and members of Unity Baptist Church (who currently own the land) began that process. At a recent Joplin City Council meeting a presentation was given encouraging Council to move forward with Lincoln School’s historic designation. Move forward they did; unanimously so! Thus, the nomination process will soon come to a close, making the former Lincoln School site the first Local Landmark site that represents Joplin’s African-American community and the contributions thereof.