On MLK Day, experts say America’s civil rights movement has its foundation in the Kansas City region

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When you hear civil rights movement you automatically think of the South, but experts say many of the foundations of the movement began in the Kansas City region.

Bob Kendrick, president of Kansas City's Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, delivered the keynote speech, celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Monday night at the Truman Memorial Building in Independence.

Although ceremonies like this one honored the work King did in the South in the 1950s and 60s, Kendrick pointed out that some of the foundations of the civil rights movement can be traced to the Midwest

Things like President Harry S. Truman, of Independence, desegregating the military in the late 1940s and Kansas City's role in breaking the color barrier in baseball.

"Well Jackie Robinson was hand-packed from the great Kansas City Monarchs," Kendrick said. "Brown versus the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas."

At the Palestine Missionary Baptist Church in KC on Monday, leaders with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference touted the Midwest as a model for carrying out King's dream.

"The gains that we have made in equal opportunity in combating racism and hate have always been done together. Always,"  Conference President Vernon Howard said.

King's legacy and his dream are ultimately part of the American Dream, and Kendrick believes, then and now, our region has an often-overlooked role in the story of civil rights.

"The Midwest plays a more prominent, prevalent role in the civil rights movement than people ever given a credit for," he said.