Struggle for Statehood

A series of panels featured in the new exhibit ‘The Struggle for Statehood.’ It will be on display at the St. Joseph Visitors Center through Aug. 28.

If you’ve ever wondered how Missouri became a state, a traveling exhibit will engage people with answers in a fun, exciting way.

Presented by the Missouri Humanities Council, the exhibit “Struggle for Statehood” follows Missouri’s complex, controversial journey to becoming part of the U.S.

“I really hope that (visitors) get a really good sense of how difficult it was for Missouri to become a state,” Marci Bennett, executive director of the St. Joseph Convention & Visitors Bureau, said.

The exhibit will be on display at the St. Joseph Visitors Center, 502 N Woodbine Road, until Aug. 28.

Told through a series of panels, which includes stories and firsthand accounts of people who went through the state’s admission into the U.S., the exhibit captures the three-year journey for Missouri’s admission into the Union, which includes controversial topics like slavery. It looks at how not everyone was equal when Missouri entered the Union and what that means to the state’s history.

Bennett said the exhibit has a newfound relevance because of the discussions centered around race. She said while she had some reservations about whether now was a good time to host the exhibit, she was awed at the thoughtful context it gave to the time period and how it’s unabashed in trying to accurately represent Missouri’s past injustices.

“The Missouri Humanities Council does a great job (of putting it in context). They are great at that,” she said.

It’s an uneasy history, Bennett said, but it’s one worth being reminding people of how it all started.

“I just hope people realize what a controversial state we were to come into the Union and how difficult it was for citizens to come to some kind of compromise and become a state because we had conflicting factors. You know, we had slave owners, we had nonslave owners,” she said.

The exhibit is one of the first for the Visitors Center and, as Bennett said, the start of more to come.

“We really want to get people in the visitors center to not only to see the exhibit, but to find out other things to do to get out of the house and away in safe environments,” she said.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com.

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