The Sharp End Heritage Committee invites everyone to help celebrate the completion of the African American Heritage Trail by attending a virtual dedication on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 11:30 a.m.
During the online event, organizers will unveil a new marker to be installed in Flat Branch Park in coming days. Local officials will help recognize the significance of the trail, and committee members will recognize contributors and provide a video to preview a section of the trail.
In the early 1900s, Columbia was home to one of the wealthiest, self-made women in the nation. Around the same time, one of the world’s leading composer-musicians lived here, too, as did a famous horticulturalist with a thriving produce business. They were all rock stars of their day by any measure of comparison. And they were all Black.
Annie Fisher made a fortune selling her “beaten biscuits” nationally. Pianist Blind Boone enjoyed international fame thanks to his beloved ragtime compositions and performances. Henry Kirklin is likely the first Black to teach at Mizzou, albeit outdoors because Blacks were not allowed inside campus buildings in his day. Kirklin’s extraordinary skills in grafting and cultivating plants were legendary and he became a financial success after having been born into slavery.
The stories of these three Columbians plus several additional histories of Black people and institutions are remembered along this new African American Heritage Trail in central Columbia.
“The Sharp End Committee has worked together for more than five years to create the trail,” said Jim Whitt, committee chair. “We hoped to have a grand, outdoor celebration but the pandemic has prevented that for now. Because we want people to use the trail and learn about the history of the Black community, we have opted for the virtual event.”
With 22 historic markers along the way, the 2-mile trail runs through several blocks of central Columbia. It features several Black people who lived in Columbia during its first 200 years along with their businesses and institutions.