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Terrell Dempsey <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 12 Dec 2003 23:03:02 -0600
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Dear Forum Friends, while this will not be of interest to you all, I think it will intrigue those of you who are interested in Hannibal.  It speaks volumes. This appeared in the 12/10 Hannibal Courier Post. The white counter-memorial was paid for by the Hannibal City Council after a white man protested the erection of a memorial to a black section of town that was torn down.  The city owns the Boyhood Home and entrusts the operation of the home to an all-white committee of businesspersons.  

Monuments tell a story of city strife 
Courier-Post Commentary 

In an era when neighborhoods consisted of people who shopped and went to school within a few blocks of their homes, the Market Street Wedge flourished. There were taverns, grocery stores, five and dimes, furniture dealers, clothing shops, barbers and hair stylists, cafes, shoe stores and more. 

People parked parallel to the shops and conducted their business on a first-name basis. The cobbler knew when your shoes needed mending. The butcher remembered which cut of beef you preferred. There was penny candy in apothecary jars, gadgets to repair any widget, and plenty of service to back a sale. 

Many of the buildings that once made up The Wedge area are now gone - torn down under the guise of progress. While the structures no longer stand, memories of the area do thrive. Before those memories pass along with the people who once frequented those mid-town businesses, two groups of people sought help from the city to pay tribute to this once bustling business district. 

The result is two memorials installed on Monday - one representing the "black" businesses that once operated in the neighborhood, and the other honoring the "white" businesses along that same pie-shaped wedge of Market and Broadway. 

The irony is not the fact that the businesses are being recognized, but rather the manner in which they are noted. Race is a factor, just as it was during the height of this area's stature. 

On one side of the site of the former wedge is a "white" monument and on the other side is a "black" monument - testimony to the controversy that existed within the community during the planning stage of the memorials, and to the era of segregation which existed during the district's hey-day. 

As memorials are designed to endure the effects of time, we offer a collective sigh when we consider what these separate monuments will say to future generations who stop to view and to wonder: Why? 

The message that surfaces from the granite is this: The city recognizes the black and white businesses that once operated in this area, while making the distinction that race remains a factor within the community. 

As a dedication for the memorials is planned, let the city's ultimate goal be the unification of its people rather than separation.