White Man’s Heaven

Cover to White Man's Heaven by Kimberly Harper

White Man's Heaven by Kimberly Harper

Interested in reading about local history? A new book this fall will offer the first comprehensive examination of five interconnected episodes of racial violence in the Ozarks.  We like it already because its cover art features the work of Joplin’s famed resident, Thomas Hart Benton.  Here are the details:

“Drawing on court records, newspaper accounts, penitentiary records, letters, and diaries, “White Man’s Heaven” is the first book to investigate the lynching and expulsion of African Americans in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Kimberly Harper explores events in the towns of Monett, Pierce City, Joplin, and Springfield, Missouri, and Harrison, Arkansas, to show how post–Civil War vigilantism, an established tradition of extralegal violence, and the rapid political, economic, and social change of the New South era combined to create an environment that resulted in interracial violence. Even though some whites, especially in Joplin and Springfield, tried to stop the violence and bring the lynchers to justice, many African Americans fled the Ozarks, leaving only a resilient few behind and forever changing the racial composition of the region.”

The book has received high praise from noted scholars Edward Ayers, Fitzhugh Brundage, and Brooks Blevins.

“Kimberly Harper has written a powerful, deeply researched, and persuasive account of the driving of entire communities of African Americans from their homes. These stories of the Ozarks speak of a larger tale of violence and subjugation we must understand if we are to understand the history of this country.”
Edward L. Ayers, President, University of Richmond, and author of The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction

“An uncommonly sophisticated piece of local history that demonstrates why local / micro history is so valuable.”
W. Fitzhugh Brundage, William B. Umstead Professor, University of North Carolina, and author of Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880–1930

“A valuable contribution to the study of American race relations and the Ozarks.”
Brooks Blevins, Noel Boyd Associate Professor of Ozarks Studies, Missouri State University, and author of Arkansas / Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol’ Boys Defined a State

Keep an eye out for it in the fall. If you want to pre-order, you can purchase it on Amazon.com or through the University of Arkansas Press.   At the time of the book’s release, we’ll offer  more comprehensive coverage.

UPDATE:  Check out the White Man’s Heaven website at www.WhiteMansHeaven.com.

More Trouble at the Silver Moon Saloon

In the rough and tough world of Joplin’s saloons, it seems excitement was never far away.

Henry Moon, the proprietor of the Silver Moon Saloon in August 1904, did not suffer fools.  Will Sowder was in a bad mood.  It ended, of course, with bloodshed.

Sowder, whose real name was Will Davis, was the stepson of Deputy Marshal Frank Sowder.  Perhaps Sowder felt this relationship gave him special privileges.  He had already faced arson charges earlier in the year, but was acquitted. Or maybe he just didn’t care after a night of heavy drinking with his friend Mike Ryan.  In any event, Sowder got into an argument with Moon.  Heated words were exchanged. Sowder lunged behind the bar and hit Moon.  Moon hit the floor and Sowder jumped on him.  He was in for a surprise, though, because Moon was able to draw his revolver.  With a squeeze of the trigger, Moon shot Sowder in the leg, then hit him over the head with the gun.  Sowder staggered and fell, leaving a pool of blood on the floor.

An ambulance picked Sowder up and took him to his home at the southeast corner of Fourteenth and Wall Streets.  There he received medical attention from Dr. Tyler who felt that Sowder would recover from his wounds without any problems.  Moon, however, was hauled off to the home of Justice Potter who turned Moon over to Constable Arch McDonald.  Moon bonded out after he ponied up $1500.  He refused to talk to a Joplin Globe reporter about the incident.

In the end, it was just another night in Joplin.

Source: The Joplin Globe