Although small, Springfield’s bustling Black community once owned and operated successful businesses and points of interest along Route 66, including Green Book lodging that accommodated families and celebrities alike. Today, only about 4.4% of the city’s citizens are Black, according to the United States Census Bureau. Now, a local team of activists, academics and organizers are working together to keep the memory of Springfield’s Black history alive.
The African American Heritage Trail was born out of a Black history research project called “The Journey Continues,” conducted by doctors Lyle Foster and Tim Knapp at Missouri State University in 2015. The trail is a vein of history that runs through Springfield’s mid- and downtown neighborhoods and highlights historic sites in Springfield’s Black history. Currently, six markers sit along a 2-mile trail. A seventh site can be accessed by car. Foster says the goal is to give important memories to Springfield’s African American community and educate others, too.
The first stop on the trail is Park Central Square. This site is home to some of Springfield’s darkest history. It’s where Horace Duncan, Fred Coker and Will Allen were lynched in 1906, in the early hours of Easter morning. You can read more about the history on the marker located in the southeast corner of the square.