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African-Americans have played an important part in the culture, political, and spiritual history of St. Louis since 1764. They were members of the party that accompanied Pierre de Laclede Liguest when he founded the trading post and French village that became St. Louis. According to the 1799 census, the total population of St. Louis was 925 of which 46% were people of African descent.
African-American communities were established in St. Louis County as early as the 1860s, e.g., Webster Groves and Rock Hill. The black community of Kinloch was not developed until the 1890s.
St. Louis City Hall has “Certificate of Character” documents dating from 1804 to 1860. This includes filings for free born or emancipated persons of African ancestry. These records are unindexed.
Many Missouri slaves joined the Union Army between 1863 and 1865 and at the time of enlistment, a “descriptive recruitment list” was made for each recruit. For slaves, enlistment meant freedom. If the former slave owner was loyal, he or she could later file a slave compensation claim for the lost services of the slave. Three hundred dollars could be claimed for slaves who enlisted; $100 could be claimed if slaves were drafted. Because of the possibility of fraud, some of the recruitment officers wrote detailed personal notes in the remarks section of the descriptive recruitment list.
Julius K. Hunter & Friends African-American Research Collection
Most of Missouri’s descriptive recruitment lists have been preserved at the National Archives. The Julius K. Hunter & Friends African-American Research Collection and the National Archives sponsored the microfilming of those records and now they are available to the public in National Archives microfilm publication M1894, Descriptive Recruitment Lists of Volunteers for the United States Colored Troops for the State of Missouri, 1863-1865. Besides providing a physical description of the recruit, it tells the county and state of birth of the slave and the name and county of residence of the former slave owner.
The St. Louis County Library Special Collections offers a special finding aid outlining the African-American microforms, CD-ROMs, and electronic databases available at the library. Click on St. Louis County Library Finding Aids for further information. St. Louis Genealogical Society has an African-American Special Interest Group, which meets four times a year, and concentrates its efforts on African-American research pertaining to St. Louis.
This source and other holdings in the St. Louis County Library, Julius K. Hunter Collection may open many doors for African-American researchers and anyone whose family lived in the South. The record set is available at St. Louis County Library.
African American SourceBook. New York: Gale Research, 1995.
Clamorgan, Cyprien. The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1999.
Faherty, William Barnaby. The Religious Roots of Black Catholics of St. Louis. St. Louis: St. Stanislaus, 1977.
Frazier, Harriet C. Runaway and Freed Missouri Slaves and Those Who Helped Them, 1763–1865. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2004.
Gerteis, Louis S. “Slavery Dies Hard.” In Civil War St. Louis. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2001.
Greene, Lorenzo Johnston, Gary R. Kremer, and Antonio Frederick Holland. Missouri’s Black Heritage. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1993.
Hogan, Daniel Michael. The Catholic Church and the Negroes of Saint Louis. St. Louis: St. Louis Special Collections, 2004.
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Biographical Dictionary of Black Lutheran Clergymen. St. Louis: Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, 1978.
McKissack, Fredrick. Come This Far by Faith: The Story of the Olive Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Kirkwood, Missouri. Kirkwood, Missouri: Olive Chapel, 2004.
Morris, Ann, and Henrietta Ambrose. North Webster: A Photographic History of a Black Community. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Rawlings, Keith. Gone but Not Forgotten: Quinette Cemetery, a Slave Burial Ground, est. 1866. Kirkwood, Missouri: Youth in Action, Inc., 2003.
Speer, Lonnie R. Meacham Park: A History 1892-1989. St. Louis, Missouri., 1998.
The Black Military Experience.. New York: Cambridge, 1982.
The Ville: The Ethnic Heritage of an Urban Neighborhood.. St. Louis, Missouri. Washington University, 1975.
Trexler, Harrison Anthony. Slavery in Missouri, 1804–1865. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1914.
White, John Taylor. Survey of Organized Catholic Activities Among the Negroes in the St. Louis District, 1719–1937. St. Louis: Saint Louis University, 1937.
Whitefield, John. Champions of the Exodusters: The Saga of Reverend Moses Dickson, Charlton Hunt Tandy, and the Black Pioneers. Prattville, Alabama: Afritel Productions, 2004.
Woodtor, Dee. Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity. New York: Random House, 1999.
Wright, John A. African Americans in Downtown St. Louis. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2003.
Wright, John A. Discovering African American St. Louis: A Guide to Historic Sites. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society, 1994.
Wright, John A. Kinloch: Missouri’s First Black City. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2000.
Wright, John A. St. Louis Black Heritage Trail. St. Louis: Ferguson-Florissant School District, 1990.
Wright, John A. Sr. St. Louis: Disappearing Black Communities. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Pub., 2004.
Wright, John A. The Ville, St. Louis. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2001.
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