Parkville leaders consider whether ‘slavery’ belongs on historical markers

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PARKVILLE, Mo. — As Confederate statues have toppled all across the nation in the last few months, city leaders in Parkville also removed a prominent historical marker along a traffic triangle near the downtown business district.

But unlike the large statues in the likeness of General Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson, the historical marker in Parkville was taken down because it explained how the historic river city had once been home to a slave market.

“The idea behind this was to kind of, ‘Be better,’” said Brian Whitley, a Parkville alderman. “To try to find another way, a different way, a better perspective that includes a multifaceted role of everyone’s unique perspective.”

Whitley explained the city is exploring the possibility of installing a series of historical markers that tell the city’s story from various viewpoints and with proper historical context.

“Similar to the Freedom Trail in Boston,” Whitley said.

“Words carry weight,” said Carmaletta Williams, executive director at The Black Archives in Kansas City.

Williams believes it’s a mistake to erase history but believes cities like Parkville should emphasize the human part of the history. Instead of terms like “slaves” or “slavery,” Williams suggests “enslaved peoples” or “trafficked humans.”

“We cannot act as if slavery didn’t happen and try to erase it from history,” Williams said. “But another thing we have to do is make sure that we’re not glorifying it.”

Some of the young volunteers at The Black Archives told FOX4 they have no issue with historical markers using terms like “slaves” or “slavery.”

“America was built off of this history, off the backs of slaves,” said Samaa Best. “I feel like to take it down would be a slap in the face to what this movement is about.”

Christian Thomas agrees.

“We should have those monuments to show us that, ‘Yes, that is what happened,’” Thomas said. “Just because we took down Confederate monuments doesn’t mean we have to take down those just because it says ‘slaves.’”

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