The “boy problem,” declared the Sedalia Capital, “is essentially the same the world over.” In Europe, the United States, and other developed areas of the world, the problem had its roots in the idle time teen aged boys had when not in school or at work; in other parts of the world the problem lay in poverty and lack of opportunities. Both situations denied boys the chance for safe and healthy recreation, contact with positive male role models, especially those outside the family, and training that would help them grow up to be hardworking, honest, kind young men.
On January 16, 1928, the Capital printed an article extolling the benefits of Scouting. The article outlined the efforts made by Sedalia’s African American community to establish a Scouting program. Although Scouting “makes no distinction of race, creed, or color, but cooperates with all,” Scout troops in most of the nation were segregated by ethnicity.
In 1927, Sedalia’s African American community hosted a leadership program for men interested in working with the Boy Scouts. Seventeen of the nineteen men enrolled in the program completed the course, and formed troop committees. The committees in turn created two Boy Scout troops in the African American neighborhood.
The troops were based at Lincoln-Hubbard School, a focal point of the African American community. Professor C. C. Hubbard, principal of the school, was Deputy Commissioner of Boy Scout District Number One. Troop number 5 was led by Professor Gooch, a teacher at the school; troop number 15 was led by Mr. L. P. Valentine.
The Capital praised the efforts to bring scouting to the African American community, noting that the “boys are interested and have shown a fine spirit.” The newspaper went on to note improvements being made in the African American neighborhood, including the building between 1904 and 1924 of “handsome and substantial” new church buildings, including Taylor Chapel Methodist Church, Burns Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, and Ward Memorial Missionary Baptist Chapel, and the organizing of the Holiness Church, the Adventist Church, and the Church of God in Christ.
The Capital also noted the work being done to pave streets in the neighborhood, an effort that was being conducted with more success in that neighborhood than in some of the white neighborhoods. The people in the neighborhood had a strong personal interest in improving the area, as a large number of them either owned their homes outright or were making payments on a mortgage.
The community improvements were primarily the result of the work by the Northside Improvement Association. The organization supported scouting, as did the homeowners.
Professor C. C. Hubbard, when speaking to the scout leaders, noted, African Americans are “not asking for help, but they do desire understanding and a better appreciation” of their contributions to the community. He ended with a statement against the stereotyping of African Americans that was so prevalent at the time: “It is not altogether fair to measure his race by the loafer on the street, since the worth while man is generally at work and the worth while woman is busy at home, or perhaps somewhere else in the laudable effort to a maintain a home.”
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.