African Americans

An art piece by Kelley Walker uses a floor-to-ceiling cover of a female rapper from men's magazine. It is smeared in tooth paste.
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Sept. 23 with statement from Kelley Walker — The Contemporary Art Museum’s display of a controversial exhibit by artist Kelley Walker — and how the administration handled public objection — has shadowed the museum in tension. The exhibit uses the images of black people in ways some St. Louisans consider disrespectful and offensive.

Three members of the museum’s administrative staff who are black have called for the museum to remove Walker’s “Direct Drive” exhibition. In the letter to the museum's senior directors published Thursday on Facebook, De Andrea Nichols, Lyndon Barrois Jr. and Victoria Donaldson also said chief curator Jeffrey Uslip should resign and issue a formal apology.

A art piece by Kelley Walker depicting a civil rights-era protest is splattered with melted dark, white, and milk chocolate.
Kelley Walker, Black Star Press | Paula Cooper Gallery

Walk into the Contemporary Art Museum today and you will be greeted with brick paintings, light boxes, laptop sculptures, and a 4-by-4 chocolate disco ball. It’s Kelley Walker’s first U.S. solo museum show, Direct Drive.  

Walk deeper into the main galleries and you’ll see works from the Georgia-born artist’s past shows, most notably Black Star Press, and Schema. They include a floor-to-ceiling print of the model and rapper Trina scantily clad on the cover of KING magazine coated in digital scans of smeared toothpaste. Another uses a 1963 image of Birmingham police and dogs attacking a civil rights protester. The print is splattered with different shades of chocolate. Both works have garnered Walker, who is white, a reputation for commenting on race in America — and fierce criticism of his use of the black body.

'Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa the Musical' dancers and singers held a pop up performance at UMSL's Millennium Student Center Monday.
Provided by UMSL campus photographer August Jennewein

When Niyi Coker considers Africa’s contributions to modern music, he can’t help but think of Miriam Makeba, the acclaimed South African singer and activist who introduced international audiences to the continent’s sounds.

It’s impossible to separate Makeba’s art from her activism, said Coker, a professor of African-American studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In a life that was heroic and tragic, the singer suffered three decades of forced exile from her homeland for challenging its racist policies and injustice.

When Makeba died in 2008, she left an incredible legacy, said Coker, a native Nigerian who wrote “Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa the Musical.” Its first performance in the United States takes place Thursday at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

zhu |Flickr | http://bit.ly/21DUy2Q

A large body of study has amassed over the past 20 years looking critically at enrollment, retention and persistence rates of African-American men in higher education. The statistics are startling. Enrollment numbers are dwindling, with African-American male college enrollment around 34 percent, compared with 39 percent of African-American women.

This piece is from Basil Kincaid's "Reclamation 2," showing at The Luminary through Feb. 27.
Willis Ryder Arnold / St. Louis Public Radio

It's no stretch to think that Basil Kincaid’s efforts to unite people of African heritage require travel. But pre-paid phone cards, vinyl sheets and a strong adhesive are also part of the process.

A 1963 photo of the Congress of Racial Equality demonstrating at the Jefferson Bank & Trust Company over the issue of jobs.
Arcadia Publishing

The author of a new book called “African American St. Louis” hopes images of the past will help people better understand the issues of today.

Lead author and educator John Wright Sr. grew up in St. Louis in the 1940s and '50s. His book, written in collaboration with his sons John Wright Jr. and Curtis Wright Sr., contains 170 color and black-and-white photos from the 1960s through the present.

Wright said many of the pictures are unique images you won’t see in museums, libraries, newspapers or online.

University of Texas Press

Aunt Jemima is a contentious figure in African-American history. She is the namesake of the famous Missouri-born pancake mix and, also, a racial epithet akin to the similarly contentious "Uncle Tom." So why did author Toni Tipton-Martin, renowned culinary writer, name her anthologized collection of African-American cookbooks after her?

Courtesy of the Hands On Black History Museum

The recent $5 million gift tech company Emerson made to the Missouri History Museum will fund the museum’s first exhibit from its initiative to improve the representation of African-American history in museum programing. The exhibit will attempt to show St. Louis' position as a leading city of the civil rights movement.

An exhibition at the Griot Museum of Black History shows a mutiny on the deck of a slave ship.
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

A new $5 million donation will help the Missouri History Museum collect and exhibit St. Louis’ African-American history. But not everyone trusts a large, mainstream institution to tell these stories.

While the History Museum thrives through such contributions and with Zoo-Museum District funding, the Griot Museum of Black History struggles to even pay its utility bills. In the weeks ahead, we’ll have a detailed report of this languishing establishment.

Julius Montgomery
Florida Institute of Technology Office of Alumni Affairs

When most people recall monumental moments of the civil rights era, what events often come to mind? The Montgomery Bus Boycott? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech?

What about NASA?

Jason Wilson, coffee in hand, talks with two of his workers at the Northwest Coffee Shop in the Central West End.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Stay tuned for rock-star style drama tonight as six St. Louisans argue and scream their way through a new Lifetime TV reality show called “BAPs,” which stands for Black American Princess. Or Prince, in the case of local coffee shop owner Jason Wilson.

Wilson is the founder of Chronicle Coffee and gathering space in north St. Louis, and owns two Northwest Coffee shops. He’s also among the “BAPs” cast pulled together by a Los Angeles production company.

courtesy Gitana Productions

Latin and jazz musicians will share the stage at Union Avenue Christian Church Saturday, June14 in a concert organized by Gitana Productions. The concert, called “Karamu: Fiesta of Latin and African American Music,” will explore the shared musical heritage of Latinos and African Americans.

Jason Purnell
Washington University

Third Brief: For the Sake of All

The third brief of a groundbreaking and interdisciplinary study on African American health in St. Louis examines how mental health affects social and economic opportunities.

The latest brief in the “For the Sake of All” study asks how we can improve mental health in St. Louis. 

(via Flickr/NWABR)

A multi-disciplinary study released today finds that in relation to school dropout rates, health plays a bigger role than one might think.

The study is part of ‘For The Sake of All,’ a five part series from Washington University and Saint Louis University that focuses on the health of African Americans in the St. Louis region.