Working Together

The Ozarks have never been an industrial capital of Missouri, and so for the longest time the majority of African American families supported themselves by working the land. Artifacts from the OAAHM, such as the boring tool owned by freedman Wallace White and the set of wooden hames show the industriousness of people who spent their lives working outdoors.

For outdoors work to be efficient, however, indoors work must also be productive. African American women have traditionally worked both in the fields and in the home cooking, cleaning and ensuring upkeep. Tools like the laundry "squasher" owned by Fanny Murray were used to improve cleaning processes, while simple, yet incredibly sturdy, irons served to help keep up appearances.

As time moved on, even the rural Ozarks began to urbanize somewhat, leading to occupational diversification. Mining and other resource gathering eventually led to factory jobs, and as Jim Crow necessitated separate stores for African Americans, in some places Black-owned businesses thrived. The trains that once criss-crossed the United States provided further employment opportunities, with the added benefit of allowing rural African Americans the chance to visit new parts of the country and see how African Americans were living there.