Tuesday, October 18, 2016

John William "Blind" Boone

John William "Blind" Boone (1864-1927 ) -- A bi-racial, disabled Concert Pianist. Best known as the pioneer of ragtime music, he was recorded in 1912 by the QRS piano roll company. Born to Rachel Ann Carpenter Boone*  (1841, KY-1901, Mo.), a mulatto "liberated" slave, she gave birth to John William on May 17, 1864. When Willie was six months old, he contracted a serious illness known as "brain fever" and doctors removed his eyes in an attempt to cure it. 

Rachel, a single mom, moved to Warrensburg where she worked as a servant for several families. She married his step-father, Harrison Hendrick, May 17, 1871, when Willie was 8. She wanted her son to have a good education, so with the help of friends, he was sent to St. Louis in 1872/3 to the School of the Blind where he would be taught a trade, so he could support himself when he grew up, but he was not happy there, mostly because he was bored with the subjects he was forced to learn such as making brooms and Braille. He soon was expelled for skipping classes and a train conductor kindly sent him home after finding him living on the streets.

Boone had a fine mind with a good memory and could remember how to play the music he heard. Recognizing Boone's musical talent, John B. Lange, Jr. (1840-1916) became his manager, forming the Blind Boone Company. Willy married Eugenia Lang (1870-1931), his manager's youngest sister.

They traveled in the US, Canada, and Mexico where Boone gave as many as 8,000 public concerts during his lifetime, but was known to visit friends to play a song or two. He always played hymns during his concerts and one of his favorites was "Nearer, My God to Thee", words by Sarah F. Adams, 1841, and music by Lowell Mason, 1856.

He passed away October 4, 1927 while visiting his half-brother, Sam Hendrick, in Warrensburg, with Eugenia following on March 16, 1931. Both were buried side by side in the Columbia City Cemetery.

*Note: Due to the confusion over Rachel's name, I thought a little explanation was in order. According to David W. Jackson, author of Born a Slave: Rediscovering Arthur Jackson’s African American Heritage and editor of "Generations," the official newsletter of the Mid-west Afro-American Genealogical Interest Coalition (M.A.G.I.C), emancipated slaves had the freedom to choose their own surnames. Whether Rachel was liberated from her former Benton County, Mo. slave-owners by running away or being stolen is undetermined, but Sam Hendricks, informant for Blind Boone's death certificate and his brother, Rachel's maiden surname was Carpenter, therefore Blind Boone was a product of her liberated state as she later married Hendricks when John William was 8 years old and had other children.  

Personal Motto: "Merit, Not Sympathy, Wins." 

More to Read:
1.) Dr. Ashley's biography: Click
2.) Blind Boone: His Early Life and Achievements. By Mrs. Melissa Fuell-Cuther, B.S.D., (First edition: Burton Pub., Kansas City, MO. 1915; Second Edition: Evangel Pub. Society, Robbins, TN; 1918.)
3.) Eugenia & John Lange, Jr.'s father, John Lange, Sr., Free Man of Color.
4.) "Historic Missourians: John William "Blind" Boone (1864-1927). Retrieved from the State Historical Society of Missouri. Retrieved from this
5.) "Blind" Boone: Missouri Honors Its Ragtime Pioneer. By Phoebe Prioleau. Retrieved from this website
6.) The African American Atlas. Black History & Culture an Illustrated Reference. by Molefi K. Asanta and Mark T. Mattson. Macmillan USA, Simon & Schuster, New York. Retrieved from website: African-American
7.) Retrieved from 
Youtube: John William "Blind" Boone's Home. By Think You Colors.
8.) Retrieved from Youtube: History Off the
Shelf -- John William "Blind" Boone. By Think You Colors.
9.) Merit, Not Sympathy, Wins: The Life and Times of Blind Boone. By Dr. Mary Barile and Christine Montgomery. Retrieved from
website: Blind Boone. By Mo Sec of State.
10.) "Presenting Blind Boone: A Life from Rags to Ragtime Riches" By Leslie Lyon. Columbia Missourian Newspaper. 1975-11-30. No. 58.
11.) "J.W. Boone Was County Celebrity." By John Jaeger. Columbia Missourian Newspaper. 1971-08-22. No. 289.

12.) Blind Boone: Missouri's Ragtime Pioneer. By Jack A. Batterson. Univ. of Mo. Press.
13.) John William Boone article at the Boone Society website. 
14.) MO. Death

15.) His manager: John B. Lange, Jr. Mo. Death Certificate: 24534
16.) Findagrave, # 4391

 Poem written about Blind Boone: Blind Boone's
Vision. By Tyehimba Jess.

Places to Visit:
Boone's Home (built by Eugenia's brother, Thadius Lange), 10 North Fourth Street, Columbia (National Register of Historic Places).
2.) Second Missionary Baptist Church. North 4th St, Columbia. Stained Glass window donated by John Lange, Blind Boone's brother-in-law and manager.
3.) Blind Boone Sculpture. Artist: Ai Qiu Hopen. Blind Boone Park, 402 W. Pine St., Warrensburg. 2 Markers
4.) City of Warrensburg Roadside Historical Marker. 812 East Young Avenue (Young Avenue and US Hwy 50 Access Ramp), Johnson County, Warrensburg.
5.) Boone County Historical Museum, 3801 Ponderosa St, Columbia
6.) Columbia Cemetery, E. Broadway & 163 Hwy, Boone county, Columbia.

7.) Thespian Hall, 522 Main St, Booneville
8.) John B. Lange, Jr. lived at 912 Park Ave, Kansas City. He and his wife, Ruth, are buried in the Highland Cemetery, Jackson County, Kansas City.  Findagrave # 55539392
9.) Stand on the corner where Blind Boone's Theatre (1929) historic building presently stands at 18th & Highland Ave, Kansas City.
10.) Webster County, Missouri Roadside Marker. Webster County Courthouse, Marshfield.

Quote: "Blindness has not affected my disposition. It has never made me at outs with the world. Many times I regard it as a blessing, for had I not been blind, I would not have given the inspiration to the world that I have. I have shown that no matter how a person is afflicted, there is something that he can do worthwhile." ~ Blind Boone.