There have historically been many Missourians who’ve championed civil rights: Grace Bumbry, Elizabeth Keckley, Frankie Freeman, James Beckwourth, and others. But one in particular is the focus of a significant celebration worth attending.

By Peg Cameron Gill

Saturday, July 8, George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond is holding its 80th George Washington Carver Day celebration from 10 AM–3 PM. The annual event celebrates the life of George Washington Carver and the establishment of the national monument in his honor. (The first national park to honor an African American.)

The event also celebrates the African American experience through speakers, storytelling, music, and educational programs.

In keeping with Carver’s legacy of accessible and affordable education, Carver Day is free of charge and presented in partnership with the Carver Birthplace Association.  

Hear informative speakers including Leo Landis, Museum Curator for the State Historical Society of Iowa. He’ll share insights into Carver’s time living in Iowa, which were critical years for Carver as a student and artist, and when he decided to change his career path and become an agricultural scientist.

Photo credit: [Missouri Postcard Collection, P0032. P0032-Diamond-002.tif], The State Historical Society of Missouri, Photograph Collection.
Steve Sitton, Site Supervisor at the Thomas Hart Benton State Historic Site, in Kansas City, Missouri will share a fascinating presentation entitled, Art, Race, and Thomas Hart Benton. The famed Regionalist painter was one of the first white artists to portray African American life, labor, culture, and inequality.  

 Music is a huge part of the Carver Day celebration.  Performers this year include Lem Sheppard, a local jazz, blues, and folk musician who traces the history of African American music from both the North and South. 

Cherry and Jerry, a ragtime duo from St, Louis, will blend history and music in their program “Early African American Composers.” It includes music by Scott Joplin, James Scott (born in Neosho and raised in Carthage), and other key figures in this genre, which was very popular in George Washington Carver’s time.  

 In addition, Bright Star Touring Theatre, a national children’s touring theatre from Asheville, North Carolina, will perform Freedom Songs. This family-friendly, musical revue offers an energetic and engaging approach to learning about Black history. From songs related to the Underground Railroad, to the powerful anthems of the Civil Rights Movement, to the  Beale Street Blues, music has long been an integral part of African American history, which is celebrated in this production.  

 Local church choirs will also be invited to perform.  

 Carver Day is also a time for kids to explore the park. There will be guided tours, Junior Ranger activities, and more. 

The Diamond Lions Club will provide food concessions.

For hundreds more events, visit Missouri Life’s Event Calendar.