The Black Archives Museum
The Black Archives Museum showcases the achievements and contributions of St. Joseph, Missouri’s, African-American citizens. Exhibits span the Civil War, jazz legends known worldwide, sports heroes and local individuals whose civic and community
leadership have changed our lives. Originally known as the Knea-Von Black Archives, it was founded in 1991 by Jewell Robinson, a former teacher at Bartlett High School in St. Joseph. Robinson organized young adult clubs where students could learn about Black culture and heritage. When Mr. Robinson became ill, his wife, Geraldine, continued to operate and maintain the Black Archives until 2002 when it became a member museum of the St. Joseph Museums, Inc. The Black Archives Museum features exhibits on such topics as the Underground Railroad, the Middle Passage, Desegregation, Education, Sports, and Music.
The influence of Black musicians from St. Joseph on the American music scene is honored with exhibits and sound samples from such artists as Donnie May, Etta Green Cox, and St. Joseph’s best known musician, the “Father of the Tenor Sax,” Coleman Randolph Hawkins. Exhibits include legendary musicians, including Coleman Hawkins: Coleman Hawkins was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, on November 21, 1904. His father, Will, was an electrical engineer and his mother, Cordelia, was a teacher. He first heard jazz on Second Street in St. Joseph where bands were known to play all night long. His ear for music was obvious to his mother who taught him to play the piano at five and introduced him to the cello at seven. By nine, he discovered the tenor sax, which was the instrument that would bring him international fame. During his forty-year career, Coleman played with such greats as Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis. He is best known for his 1939 recording “Body and Soul,” a beautifully balanced improvisation that is still the standard to which jazz musicians aspire. He died on May 19, 1969 in New York City and was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1982. In honor of the man and his music, the Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival is celebrated on the third weekend in June in Coleman Hawkins Park on Felix Street.
View the Black Archives Image Gallery here.