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Black HerStory to highlight contributions by Black women in St. Louis history

The Griot Museum of Black History and Culture, seen in this 2016 photo, is named for a West African term for storyteller.
file photo/Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
The Griot Museum of Black History has received a $100,000 grant from a Philadelphia-based nonprofit to honor the historic contributions of Black St. Louis women.

St. Louis-area artists aim to honor the historic contributions of Black St. Louis women with the project, Black HerStory.

The Griot Museum of Black History will coordinate the work through a $100,000 grant from Monument Lab, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit. Monument Lab’s Re:Generation initiative features artists from 10 cities who will use public art installations to reimagine monuments in cities across the country.

Artists and activists wanted to bring attention to the role Black women have made in the region, said Lois Conley, founder and executive director of the Griot Museum of Black History.

“I really would like to see us do something around Black women in St. Louis particularly because even at the Griot in our interpretive exhibits, we don't have a lot of content on Black women,” Conley said.

Conley said the project could include the contributions of abolitionist Mary Meachum and Pearlie Evans, civil rights activist and aide to former U.S. Rep. Bill Clay, Missouri’s first African American member of Congress.

“Those are the kinds of stories that we want to talk about and want to shed some light on so that folks begin to understand that nobody succeeds without the help of other people,” Conley said.

Conley said the museum and artists are still in the planning stages, but they aim to install monuments or markers at streets and other locations across the St. Louis region in the spring.

“Monuments and memory markets have been so poorly representative of minority groups historically that I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us,” Conley said.

Conley met with artists this past spring to come up with ideas. The artists include Eric Ellingsen, Precious Musa, De Nichols, Andrew Olden, Tracy Williams, Alana Marie Woodson and Darian Wigfall.

Wigfall is the visual and audio collaborator for the project. He wants the monuments to be permanent fixtures that will educate generations.

“My hope is that, you know, people will continue to visit these spaces and learn about these women and then be inspired to do something further,” Wigfall said. “A lot of the women that we're going to be covering have very inspirational stories, so I want people to take those away and maybe create more programming or create more monuments or however they are inspired to continue to work.”

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.