You may wish to park on or near the Liberty Square since the tour will end here. That way you’ll be walking back toward your car. A more comprehensive overview of the tour can be found in either this color brochure -or- this brochure which contains a map image on the last page. To see full background and site information, the Liberty Legacy Memorial site will be linked frequently and is highly recommended for an extensive look at Black History in Liberty. Other links are used for educational purposes to further provide context.
Welcome to Liberty MO’s African American History Walking Tour! This walking tour covers approximately 1 mile and highlights 175 years of African American history in Liberty. Visit the Garrison School, St. Luke's AME and First Baptist Churches, the Freedom Fountain, and homes of some of Liberty's most prominent citizens. The content summarized here is from work primarily researched and compiled by Dr. Cecelia Robinson, professor of English at William Jewell College (retired), in conjunction with Clay County African American Legacy, Inc.
African Americans first came to Liberty in 1817 with Southern slave owners from Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia. These enslaved people and their descendants, such as those listed, became the pioneers who founded the Black community that has been an integral part of Clay County for almost 200 years: Estes, Beauchamp, Withers, Capps, Bird, Thompson, Houston, Dorsey, Boggess, Samuel, and Allen.
By 1850 Liberty’s African American population comprised just over 20% of the total population of 827; there were only 14 free Blacks in all of Clay County. In 1865, the Missouri legislature passed the Slave Emancipation Act which ended slavery in Missouri before the 13th amendment at the federal level was ratified. That date, January 11, is now known as Manumission Day.
Before integration and the passing of civil rights laws, segregation forced Liberty’s Blacks to provide their own small, home-owned “mom and pop” restaurants, entertainment, and community services located on the town’s northern and southern blocks. These neighborhoods were on some of the streets you’ll visit today: Water, Gallatin, Prairie, Grover, and South Main.
This tour guide presents a portrait of the historic African American sites located in the Garrison Historic District that are listed on both the national and local registers of historic places, dating from the antebellum days to the present.
For the first stop, walk four blocks north on Main Street (where the street ends) to the Garrison School.