Although it may surprise some, Kansas has always been a consistent presence in Civil Rights history and black culture. From our fiery induction to the Union as a free state, becoming home for countless freedom seekers at Nicodemus and Quindaro, leading the nation's first successful student-led Civil Rights sit-in, becoming the canvas for the landmark case that banned segregation in American public schools, fostering black creatives and entrepreneurs and so much more, Kansans have had a quiet, humble voice in it all. Come explore the vibrant black history of Kansas, past and present.
The story of Brown v. Board of Education, which ended legal segregation in public schools, is one of hope and courage. When the people agreed to be plaintiffs in the case, they never knew they would change history. Step into the halls of history, explore the exhibits and learn more about this stepping stone in our nation's enduring struggle for freedom.
The nation's first successful student-led sit-ins of the Civil Rights movement occurred in Wichita in July 1958. In the midst of the sit-in, few heard and read about it because few people recognized the importance at the time. While the Dockum Drug Store is no longer in operation, it operated at the corner of Douglas and Broadway, where the current-day Ambassador Hotel is now.
Freedom is something that many take for granted, but our nation’s struggle for freedom for all citizens did not begin and end with the Civil War. Kansas is home to 21 National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom sites. Explore these preserved sites that honor those from our past who pursued freedom by traveling the Underground Railroad.
While the Kansas City Monarchs originally found their home on the Missouri side, the team has been reborn on the Kansas side of the border. The Kansas City Monarchs were the longest0running franchise in the history of the Negro leagues. This team produced more major league players than any of their other Negro league peers. It was also the first professional baseball team to use portable lighting to play games at night, five years before any other major league team did. And did we mention that they only had one season to not have a winning record in the history of the franchise? The Monarchs are legends in the baseball world. In a partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the Kansas City T-Bones have announced their rebranding to bring the Kansas City Monarchs back to life. It's easy to sit back, relax and enjoy the game, but make sure to check out a Negro Leagues exhibit at the stadium while you're there.
The story of Nicodemus is the representation of the involvement of formerly enslaved African Americans in America's westward expansion. These freedom seekers left Kentucky during the reconstruction period to find their freedom in the "promised land" on the plains of Kansas. This small town in northwestern Kansas is the oldest black settlement west of the Mississippi River still in existence. The walking tour of the town takes you to five historic buildings that represent the pillars of the African-American community: church, self-government, education, home and business.
Jennifer McDonald started off as an at-home winemaker, but her dream soon grew into a full-fledged urban winery in Wichita, a first for the city. Jenny Dawn Cellars' location at Union Station has 11 handcrafted wines, charcuterie, small bites and offers Winuecation - a monthly educational class. Jennifer says that the wine offered at Jenny Dawn Cellars is 'inspired by the wildflowers on the Kansas countryside, inviting you to open up, enjoy the breeze and show your colors to the world.'
Gordon Parks, a Fort Scott native, was the first black photojournalist to work for LIFE magazine and the first black director of a major Hollywood production (The Learning Tree, 1968.) He was a vibrant voice in the Civil Rights movement through his work as a photographer, filmmaker, writer, poet and composer. Parks' work is celebrated at the Gordon Parks Museum & Center for Culture and Diversity at Fort Scott Community College. Their collection includes many of his famous photographs, medals, awards, and furnishings from his apartment in New York.
Marla A. Jackson, a world-renowned artist and creator, is the entrepreneur behind this community-based art education center. Marla's works are inspired by the oral histories of her ancestors and the Kansas region. Her narrative quilts have been featured in 35 national and international venues including the American Folk Art Museum, The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and so many more. Make an appointment to meet Marla and to learn from a true master of her crafts, and an inspiration for all Kansas creators.