KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new book will highlight the accomplishments and contributions of Black Kansas Citians.
Kansas City Black History: The African-American story of history, culture, and art in our community is a compilation of 73 life stories of Black Kansas Citians.
Jeremy Drouin is the manager of Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library. The project is a collaboration between the library, LINC, Black Archives of Mid-America and the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center.
“People are familiar with Charlie Parker. Jazz is such a part of our history and Buck O’Neil, the Negro Leagues Baseball history and we have museums in town that really do a fantastic job of telling that history, but there’s so many more people that really fly under the radar,” Drouin said.
That history includes Junius Groves, who was born into slavery and fled to Edwardsville, Kansas where he would start a potato farm and become the “Potato King of the World.”
“He came to this area with 40 cents in his pocket. He went to work for a man who grew potatoes and then he ends up being the potato king,” said Dr. Carmaletta Williams, Executive Director of the Black Archives of Mid-America.
“There are also people like Cathay Williams who was the only female that we know who was part of the Buffalo Soldiers and she switched her name around made it William Cathay,” she said.
Dr. Williams says she hopes the book will bring more Black stories to light.
“It’s important that those stories be preserved and that they be captured. They’re out there. They’re in here. They’re all over and all around us, we just need to save them. We need to somehow make them accessible and we need to remember these people.”
The book is available for free at the Kansas City Public Library and at the Black Archives of Mid-America. You can also download the book here.