Learn about the fascinating and often overlooked connection between German immigrants and African American slaves in Missouri. An upcoming symposium in Jefferson City explores this topic through lectures, a short play, and a special exhibit.

A large audience attended a recent presentation in Hermann of the “Symposium on Shared History of Germans and African Americans.”

By Sandy Selby

Come to Jefferson City this Saturday to hear a story that even seasoned Missouri historians may not have  heard. In the “Symposium on Shared History of Germans and African Americans,” Hermann’s Deutschheim Verein, an association dedicated to the preservation of Missouri’s German Heritage, and Jefferson City’s Lincoln University will team up to explore the interesting relationship between two important groups in Missouri’s history.

The symposium takes place this Saturday, February 17, 2024, from 2‒4 p.m. at Martin Luther King Hall-Pawley Theater located at 812 East Dunklin Street in Jefferson City.  The Symposium will be the first time in Jefferson City that the relationships between Germans and African Americans before, during and after the Civil War has been explored. 

Prior to the symposium, from 1:30‒2 p.m., all attendees are  invited to a reception with the deliciously tempting  title of “Taste of African American Appetizers and German Desserts.” Both the symposium and reception are free to attend.

The day’s program includes talks by highly regarded scholars and historians, a short dramatic adaptation, and an exhibit by the Lincoln University archivist. Scheduled speakers include Dr. Gary Kremer, executive director of the Missouri State Historical Society; Dr. John Wright, author of 12 books on African American history in Missouri; and Dr. Sydney Norton, editor of the recently released Fighting for a Free Missouri: German Immigrants, African Americans, and the Issue of Slavery, published by University of Missouri Press. Cecilia Nadal, a sociologist and playwright, joins the speakers on the panel and has organized this symposium throughout Missouri since 2019 in collaboration with local partners. All four speakers are contributors to the recent release of Fighting for a Free Missouri.


Two Worlds: One America, a 20-minute dramatic presentation written by Cecilia Nadal and Lee Patton Chiles, will celebrate Judge Arnold Krekel, well-known German abolitionist and resident of Jefferson City, and members of the 62nd and 65th United States Colored Infantry. This presentation is partially adapted from Nadal’s original 3-act play An Amazing Story: German Abolitionists of Missouri. Dick Dalton, former professor at Lincoln University and actor, will play the role of Judge Arnold Krekel. Marquise Jackson. a teacher and actor, will portray a fictional member of the 62nd regiment of the Colored Infantry. Evann Dubose, singer, actress, and teacher, joins the ensemble. Nada Vaughn, director, recently received an award for her direction of Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Play. Costumes were designed by Michele Siler.

Lincoln University would not be here if not for the contribution of Judge Arnold Krekel,” Cecilia says. “When he heard that members of 62nd Colored Infantry wanted to start a school, he thought it was a great idea. They put their heads together. Those boys in the colored infantry made only $10 a month— and out of that they only got $7 because they were charged $3 for their uniforms to be cleaned. Yet at the end of that, they were so hyped up about starting the school for themselves, they came up with $6,000. People like Arnold Krekel admired that and believed in education. He got involved and pulled in some other people he knew, and here is this amazing example of poor haggard fighters in the Civil War who gave up most of their money to start this school with capable and well-connected Germans. This story is a unifier because it just shows people in their best selves coming together to create something that would be of maximum benefit.”

Mark Schleer, archivist for Lincoln University is spearheading an exhibit  The exhibit focuses on the 62nd and 65th Colored Infantry regiments that founded Lincoln University and Judge Arnold Krekel, who became a founding member of the board of trustees for Lincoln Institute (later to become Lincoln University).

No reservations are needed for this event.

Lincoln University photo (long brick building) credit: Wikimedia Commons

All other photos credit Cecilia Nadal

Watch the documentary film Exploring Missouri’s German Heritage on Missouri Life TV.  https://missourilife.com/mltv/Life Magazine

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