Black History Month Celebration at Joplin Public Library draws large crowd to hear about historical African American figures

Event honored past and present notable African American figures
black history month

JOPLIN, Mo. – Dozens of people watched history come to life, learning about slavery and the hardships African Americans endured at the Black History Month Celebration hosted by the Joplin Public Library.

“Sometimes as the further we get away from it we tend to start thinking did that really happen and are those facts correct so the more we can research and see the facts and spread it the better and the more important it is to keep it in mind that this really did happen” said Heather Vanotterlol.

Vanotterlol wanted to know more about the history, to be able to pass on the information to her students at South Middle School.

“I think learning African American history and history in general is so important so that we can see all the puzzle pieces come together to get us where we are and how we can move to the future through avoiding mistakes or learning from the past and growing from that.”

The Black History Month celebration drew crowds of curious community members, with various booths detailing stories of different historical African American figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington Carver and Thomas Gilyard, who was lynched right here in Joplin in 1903.

“We learn all the time and we’re always going back and analyzing and revisiting these kind of things and it’s a conversation that continues, must continue, we are not there yet but we are moving towards there” said Historical Actress, Nanda Nunnelly.

Nunnelly told the story of General Washington’s fugitive slave, Ona Judge. Nunnelly says that though slavery is abolished, racism is still alive and it’s important to educate, especially the younger generation, on where it stemmed from and how to combat it.

“You don’t start a country with slavery and have it go away overnight, so yes it is still there and continues to affect us and the best way for us to move into a different era is to talk about it and have these discussions.”

Joplin Public Library and the Post Arts Library teamed up with the Minnie Hackney Community Service Center of Joplin and the Emancipation Committee to host the event.