Independence has a rich history that includes many important black figures who played pivotal roles in shaping the city. These individuals were pioneers, breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations. Celebrate Juneteenth (Monday, June 19, 2023) from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Independence Uptown Market on Independence Square. The event is free and open to the public and will include entertainment, special presentations, a walking tour of African American historic sites, storytime, free books, and other family-friendly activities.

Black History tee

THCF is proud to support the three Independence high school’s Black Student Unions by sponsoring a unique t-shirt to celebrate our local history this Juneteenth (available for purchase for only $25). Among these influential figures are Emily Fisher, Hiram Young, James Boldridge, Hiram Revels, and Samuel Shepard.

Emily Fisher image

Emily Fisher was a prominent free woman in Independence who managed a thriving hotel business. Despite Emily’s exceptional care, the hotel suffered during the Civil War. As a new source of income, she invented a healing salve. She sold the salve throughout the area, and the stories of its healing power spread far and wide.

Hiram Young was another important black figure in the history of Independence. He was a successful businessman and entrepreneur, founding a wildly successful yoke and wagon manufacturing business catering to settlers heading west. In doing this, he cornered the market and became one of the wealthiest businessmen in Jackson County. Hiram's legacy lives on as a testament to his unwavering commitment to economic empowerment and equality. The school that bears his name is now the new home of Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity's Homeownership Center.

Image of Young School

James Boldridge was a well-known horse trainer and breeder and well-respected community leader in Independence in the early 1900s. On the day he was laid to rest, as a sign of their respect, businesses on the square closed so the owners could attend the service.

James Boldridge headstone image

In 2010, the Community of Concerned Citizens raised funds to provide James with a proper gravestone to replace the plain, concrete block that had been used in the past to mark the grave of a man of color. The new marker is a proper testament to his legacy.

Hiram Revels

Hiram Revels was sent to Independence in 1865 to organize an African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in the area. After briefly serving as the pastor, Hiram made his way back to his home state of Mississippi. Hiram later went on to be the first black senator to serve in the United States Congress, representing Mississippi. His election was a significant milestone in the fight for civil rights and equality.

Finally, Samuel Shepard was known as an expert craftsman in his day and was thus selected to hew the logs of the first Jackson County Courthouse in 1827. Samuel, along with two other enslaved men, Peter and Ben, built the courthouse at the intersection of Lynn and Lexington. After being born into slavery, Samuel escaped to freedom and lived out the rest of his 100+ years as a free man in Lawrence, Kansas.

Jackson County Courthouse 1827

The contributions of these important black figures should never be forgotten. Phil Hanson, President and CEO of THCF, used funds from his discretionary account to fully cover the cost of the t-shirts, ensuring every penny raised at the Juneteenth event goes directly to support the young men and women that make up the Black Student Unions at Van Horn, Truman, and William Chrisman high schools. Get your T-shirt today at the Independence Square Association website for just $25, or pick one up at the event. As a bonus, each shirt is printed with a QR code that will take you to a website where you can learn more about the historic people and sites in Independence.

The legacies of Fisher, Young, Boldridge, Revels, and Shepard live on in the city of INDEP. They serve as a reminder of the power of perseverance and the importance of fighting for what is right.