Henry Kirklin was an African American farmer, horticulturalist, and entrepreneur who was a pioneer in the field of agricultural innovation. His passion for gardening and farming led him to be the first Black teacher at the University of Missouri’s Horticulture Department and an advocate for African American students. During his lifetime, he was honored with a gold medal at the Jamestown Exposition and was a delegate to the National Negro Business League convention in Philadelphia.
For professionals looking to learn more about the legacy of African American innovation, Henry Kirklin provides an inspiring example. A former slave, Kirklin was the first Black teacher at the University of Missouri’s Horticulture Department, where he taught gardening and farming techniques to hundreds of students. He also taught at a vocational school for African-Americans in Chariton County, Missouri, and informally at schools and fairgrounds.
Kirklin was honored with awards throughout his career, most notably a gold medal at the Jamestown Exposition in 1907 for preserved vegetables. He was also a delegate to the National Negro Business League convention in Philadelphia, and worked to raise money for African-Americans to attend college and offered his expertise for free to Black students. His innovative agricultural methods and growing techniques are still used today.
Kirklin’s legacy was recognized in 2019 by a committee that raised funds to erect a gravestone at the Columbia Cemetery to honor his life and achievements. As we commemorate Black History Month, it's important to remember Henry Kirklin and the impact he had on agriculture and education. His story shows that hard work and dedication can lead to great accomplishments, even in the face of adversity.