Cooper County Extension to publish book on prominent African American educator
The University of Missouri Cooper County Extension Council will publish a book of a prominent Boonville African American educator, J. Milton Turner. The book will be formatted as a children's book. Arthur J. Schneider, Human Development/Family Studies Specialist of the University of Missouri Extension stated that Turner is largely forgotten but contributed much to the education of African Americans during the time when in many states it was illegal for African Americans to go to school. "Born a slave to a slave mother and free black man, the freedom of Turner and his mother were bought by his father at a courthouse auction. His parents encouraged schooling and for a while he attended school on a Missouri riverboat because teaching a black person was illegal in Missouri. The Missouri River was under federal jurisdiction. He went o college in Ohio for a short time and served as a military aide. He was hired by the state school superintendent to open schools for black children in Missouri. Missouri law required a segregated school if a township had a certain number of colored children. Most townships did not do so. Turner ended up founding more than 20 schools throughout the state—and many times his life was placed in danger by local opposition. In addition, Turner and his wife taught in Boonville. He became a nationally renowned speaker and was appointed by President Grant as minister to Liberia, a black county that was the result of American citizens wanting to return former slaves back to their ancestral home. In Liberia he contracted malaria and poor health. When he returned to St. Louis he practiced law and worked hard—and successfully—that former black slaves under Indian ownership shared in federal compensation funds for Indian lands. He also actively established a Missouri Mason home in northern Missouri as part of the black masons. He died in Oklahoma when hit by shrapnel from a train accident. He is buried in St. Louis," Schneider stated. The J. Milton Turner book idea started in 2006 a few months before the unveiling of the J. Milton Turner bust. Schneider stated Bob Dyer wanted to encourage kids to learn about outstanding people who have been a part of the Boonslick heritage. "Dyer developed a list of more than 70 significant individuals and events. The plan was to have several statues throughout the area to create a sculpture walk. The difficulties in raising funds and the cost changed the focus to busts with a storyboard about the individuals," Schneider stated. The reason behind a book on an individual such as this, was not just about historical significance for Schneider, he also considered Turner a modern day hero. "There are very few black Americans who are well known. From my vantage point, there are many black Americans whose stature were never recognized. I think he is a role model, especially for African-Americans. It also is important, I think, for people to learn about the local heritage of those who preceded them," Schneider stated. Though plans called for the book to be geared towards children, Schneider sought people knowledgeable about child development to author the book, but was unsuccessful. Schneider found Dr. Mary Barile to author the book. "Earlier this year I learned about Dr. Mary Barile, a playwright and assistant manager of grant writing at the University of Missouri who has written about the local area, including books on the Santa Fe Trail and on haunted houses in Mid-Missouri," Schneider stated. Schneider also sought a local artist to illustrate the book. "I met Peggy Guest years ago when she painted the wall mural on the side of Riverside Café. Having worked with her and knowing her work, I knew exactly whom I wanted to do the illustrations," Schneider stated. Schneider stated that he thinks this book is a way to promote Boonville. "We note in the book where Boonville is located and we also have an illustrated bust of Turner at Morgan Street Park and encourage visitors to visit it," Schneider stated. The manuscript has been completed. Schneider stated the illustrations will likely be completed by January. A major obstacle was finding a publisher. Schneider had looked at a couple of firms but they wanted everything camera ready at that moment. "I called Bill Mathis of Mathis-Jones Communications whom I met during the Hannah Cole fundraising. He was the public relations person who put together the proposal by Harry Weber--the sculptor who won the contract to do the Hannah Cole statue in Morgan Street Park. Bill also was the photographer of the infamous Missouri Victory posters. (The posters showed Mizzou fans downing a goal post after an unexpected victory over Nebraska. The university president opposed the poster because he thought it indicated the University supported the tradition. We sold the posters and raised more than $10,000 toward the Hannah Cole statue). I still have several unsold copies and called Bill to see what he wanted me to do with the extra posters. To get his most current phone number I Googled his firm and learned he also has a book business and the example on his website was a children's book. I told him about our project and sent the manuscript and some preliminary illustrations and he agreed to format the book, do the handling and publishing. The book will be published in printed format and as an e-book," Schneider stated. The book copyright will be owned by the University of Missouri Cooper County Extension Council.