From WWI to the Civil Rights Movement: The History of Kansas City

Welcome to Kansas City! It’s a city divided by the Missouri River. Most of what you would consider downtown (the shops, restaurants and attractions) is on the Missouri side of the river. If you are a history buff, there are incredible sites to seek out on both sides of the river. You will be amazed by the number of sites of historical significance the city and surrounding areas has to offer.

We began our visit to Kansas City at Liberty Memorial Park. The park offers up some of amazing views of Kansas City. If you only go for the views, however, you are missing quite a bit. Liberty Memorial Park is one of the largest World War I memorials/museums in the country. It is a moving tribute to those who served and gave their lives during the Great War.

We next headed to 18th & Vine, which represents the incredible amount of black history that has taken place in Kansas City. It is home to the Museum at 18th & Vine, a tribute to the impact of the black community to the area as well as the country. Exhibits on musicians, film stars and other artists can be found inside.

As a baseball buff, I was excited to finally visit The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. You are not allow to take pictures inside, so I can’t share any photos of the awesome exhibits. Trust me, it’s well worth the visit!

Our next stop was in Topeka, Kansas, about an hour west of Kansas City. Topeka is home to the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Monroe Elementary was at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education fight. Its role in the civil rights movement is unquestionable.

I can’t begin to describe my emotions walking through this national park. It is one of the few parks I have visited that has moved me to tears. While this can be a hard place to spent time, I believe this is too important to be missed. Take the time to really visit the park and see what it has to offer.

This spot is so powerful! Walking down this hallway makes you feel as though you are in the middle of these protests. To hear the hatred that was thrown at the students is overwhelming. I had to take a step back and catch my breath.

The park also includes an exhibit on conflicts that have consumed other countries and cultures. Equality is not something that America alone struggles with. With education and understanding comes change. We must continue as a global community to educate ourselves on the struggles of those around us and push for equality.

I found this portion of the chart above to be quite striking. It is the perfect illustration of how far we have come as a society (the appointment of two African Americans to significantly high positions in our government) and how far we still need to go (the murder of Matthew Shepard).

Next up was a visit to Independence, Missouri, to see the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site. The park is made up of several different locations including this old fire station which now serves as the park’s headquarters.

Harry Truman was the thirty-third president of the United States. After his passing, his wife willed their home to the US government. It is full of family heirlooms and artifacts from Truman’s time as president. It was quite fascinating.

We wrapped up our trip with a little food history. Welcome to The Peanut, a local favorite. The Peanut has been around since the early 1900s and served as a speakeasy before prohibition ended. We had several people tell us that it was a can’t miss spot on our trip. We were glad we listened. The food, especially the wings, was out of this world!

Thank you for being a wonderful host, Kansas City! Until next time!

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