Photo Credit: Pilsen Photo Co-op
Just in time for Black History Month, spend February in the Kansas City metro by learning, commemorating and celebrating the region’s rich black culture and history with special events, exclusive exhibits and must-visit attractions.
Fort Leavenworth, KS
Explore Leavenworth during Black History Month and learn about the Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth, visit the Richard Allen Cultural Center and discover the community’s connection to the Underground Railroad. The Cultural Center is also home to a depository of distinguished Black Dignity Portraits from the early 1800s and 1900s. For more information, go to VisitLeavenworthKS.com.
Kansas City, KS
Did you know the town of Quindaro, now known as Kansas City, KS, was one of the very first free soil ports of entry into Kansas? See the ruins of the town at the Quindaro Overlook and discover the story behind the settlement’s remnants by visiting the Old Quindaro Museum and the Underground Railroad Museum. All explore the rich history and the importance of the African American community of Quindaro and detail the evolutionary development of Kansas—as well as the United States of America. For more information, go to VisitKansasCityKS.com.
In Merriam, travelers can experience history first-hand by visiting sites that were crucial in the fight for civil rights. Learn about Merriam’s pivotal desegregation case, which paved the way for the landmark Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Download the Otocast app on Google Play or the App Store and search for “Merriam’s Interactive History Tour.” Other stops include the former Walker School (Philadelphia Baptist Church, 9420 W 50th Terr.), where American desegregation began, or stop by Esther E. Brown Memorial Park at 5040 Booker Dr. in Merriam to learn more about the white, suburban Merriam housewife who launched a crusade for equal rights. To learn more about Merriam’s history, visit ExploreMerriam.com/historytour.
Kansas City, MO
From smoky barbecue pits to jumping jazz joints, much of Kansas City culture is rooted in black culture. Commemorate the month by visiting some of the region’s most-heralded attractions and museums, including the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and American Jazz Museum, both located in the city’s iconic 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District. There, visitors will also find iconic barbecue courtesy of Arthur Bryant’s, and live tunes that pay tribute to and advance the city’s signature sound—sometimes well into the early morning. Yet 18th & Vine is only the beginning. Find special events, exhibits and more throughout the city, all month long. For more information, go to VisitKC.com.
Clay County, MO
Liberty, MO, was settled in 1822 and has served as the county seat of Clay County almost since its inception. Yet the fight for African American rights in Liberty dates back even earlier, to 1817. As a result, the black community has been an integral part of Clay County for nearly 200 years, and that history can be found around every corner in Liberty. To learn more about this history, take the African American Historical Sites of Liberty Tour, which highlights visit religious sites, art installations and general public sites that each contribute to the story of black history in the region. For more information, go to VisitClayMO.com
Prior to the end of the Civil War in 1865, it was against the law to teach a slave to read or write. Once the country was reunited, African Americans in Liberty first attended a private school for black and Native American children in the house of Mrs. Laura Armstrong, located at West Mill Street, and later in a series of other homes in Liberty. Soon thereafter, in 1877, African American residents established the Garrison School. Despite relying on obsolete textbooks that were handed down from the segregated white schools, the Garrison School earned a reputation as the best educational institution for black students in the state.
Today, the Garrison School serves as office space for the Clay County African American Legacy, Inc., and as a center for cultural and educational events. Several of the school’s former classrooms are now dedicated to special collections and art galleries that celebrate African American culture. The Garrison School is listed on both the National and Local Register of Historic Places in Clay County. To learn more about the Garrison School, visit ccaal-garrisonschool.org.