Black History Month: Celebrating Those Who Came Before Us

  • Henry Kirklin (1858-1938) 

    Henry Kirklin

    Kirklin was born on June 6, 1858, to his enslaved mother, Jane. Kirklin was nicknamed “the plant man” because he developed a way to stimulate seedlings’ growth by covering them and keeping them warm, called the “hot bed technique.” Kirklin is considered to be the first black man to teach at MU, though he did so from the steps of Whitten Hall because the university did not allow Black people to have official teaching positions at the time. He taught at the Bartlett Agricultural and Industrial School, which prepared African American students for careers in agriculture, as well as lectured and demonstrated horticultural techniques on behalf of the Missouri State Board of Agriculture.  Kirklin built his own overhead irrigation system. Instead of paying a fee to use the city's water, he created a small pond to collect rainwater, and then used it to water his garden at no cost. He was so successful he had to buy additional land to keep up with demand for his produce. Over his lifetime he worked hard to share and give to others, as well as winning many awards for his produce and expertise. 


  • Source:  Columbia Public Schools teacher presentation; The State Historical Society of Missouri Historic Missourians