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Monograph Publishing and the University of Missouri Release Book About a Slave Who Started Schools for “Colored Children”


James Milton Turner was born a slave in 1839, and four years later his family gained their freedom. James' parents realized the value of a good education for their young son. However, there were no schools available during that time for colored children who were not even allowed to learn to read and write. A family friend, Reverend John Berry Meachum, secretly began to teach these young children in his church. Sometime later, Meachum discovered that there was no law restricting colored children from being taught on the river, so James attended school on a small steamboat anchored near St. Louis.

When James was ready for college there were none in Missouri that would accept colored students. Because James was very intelligent, his parents wanted him to further his education. They sent him away to Oberlin College in Ohio where he remained until about 1857 when he returned to St. Louis after his father's death.

Finding employment for a colored man in a slave state in 1861 was very difficult, so James took odd jobs to make a living. When the Civil War broke out, James became a Union army aide to Colonel Madison Miller, who trusted him and became his friend. As the war progressed, Turner risked his own life by helping slaves escape to Illinois, a slave-free state. When Missouri ended slavery, Turner became active in civil rights, campaigning for the right of colored people to vote and attend school. In 1869, he and his wife, Ella, moved to Boonville, Missouri, and started their own school for colored children.

Appalled at the condition of colored schools across the country, Turner traveled all around Missouri to start schools to accommodate these children. When the Civil War ended, colored Union soldiers donated $6,000 to open a school in Jefferson City, Missouri, and what began as Lincoln Institute in 1866 is known today as Lincoln University.

As Turner became more well known around the country, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him United States Foreign Minister to Liberia. He continued to press for education for all people, stressing that the country needed good schools if children were to succeed in the future. Eventually, James Milton Turner became a lawyer and continued in his quest to help people obtain what was rightfully theirs: an education, a home and dignity.

Readers of all ages will enjoy J. Milton Turner, An American Hero. This 8 1/2 x 11, well written, beautifully illustrated, four color, hard cover book brings to life the struggles of the slave community during and after the Civil War. It also pays homage to J. Milton Turner, a man who founded 22 schools in Missouri and who fought tirelessly his entire life for freedom and equality. At the end of the book, the author has added a series of questions meant to encourage additional learning and discussions about James Milton Turner and the time in which he lived. The book also includes a glossary of terms for students to refer to as they read the book.

About the author: Mary Collins Barile earned her PhD in theatre history at the University of Missouri and currently teaches at State Fair Community College in Boonville, Missouri.

About the illustrator: Peggy A Guest, owns her own art studio with her husband in Fayette, Missouri.

About the University of Missouri Extension: University of Missouri Extension provides equal opportunity to all participants in extension programs and activities, and for all employees and applicants for employment on the basis of their demonstrated ability and competence without discrimination on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or status as a protected veteran.

University of Missouri Extension
510 Jackson Road, Suite A
Boonville, Missouri 65233

About Monograph Publishing: Monograph Publishing is a multi-dimensional company based in St. Louis, Missouri specializing in high quality publications, design, fine art prints and photography.

Monograph Publishing
1 Putt Lane
Eureka, Missouri 63025

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