Vincent O. Carter

Vincent O. Carter
Carter (Photo Credit: © P. Kräuchi')


Vincent O. Carter was determined to live a life devoted to the written word. Raised during the Great Depression, he was thankful for the modest yet comfortable upbringing his parents provided. While developing a reputation for being introverted, he also nurtured a creative drive that carried him far from his Kansas City roots.

Carter, born in 1924, was an only child who grew up in a Black community once located on the east side of downtown just south of today’s Columbus Park neighborhood. He attended the Garrison School and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1941.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to France during World War II. Serving with the 509th Port Battalion, he helped protect vital supply lines. He also fell in love with Europe, finding France both artistically inspiring and more hospitable to Black intellectuals than the racially segregated society in which he was raised.

Once back in the U.S., Carter took advantage of the G.I. Bill to attend Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1950 with a degree in English. He then spent time in Detroit, Michigan, where he attended Wayne State University and studied poetry. In addition to his academic pursuits, Carter saved money so he could return to Europe in 1953 — eventually settling in Bern, Switzerland.

Both of Carter’s parents had passed away by the early 1970s, and most of the Black neighborhood he’d once called home had been leveled to clear a path for the interstate highway system. So, he visited Kansas City infrequently for the remainder of his life.

In Switzerland, he devoted himself fully to becoming a writer and authored The Bern Book: A Record of a Voyage of the Mind, a nontraditional travel book documenting his feelings of isolation and otherness as a Black man living in Europe. Though completed in 1957, it wasn’t published until 1973.

Next, Carter started a semi-autobiographical novel. His protagonist, Amerigo Jones, tells the story of a Black child growing up in Depression-era Kansas City. The work was praised by his contemporaries, but Carter would not see it published in his lifetime.

He lived out the remainder of his life in obscurity but achieved personal fulfillment through his literary and artistic pursuits. He passed away in Bern in 1983.

Carter’s unpublished Kansas City novel began circulating in literary circles in the early 2000s, and a complete copy was later discovered in the possession of his longtime partner in Bern. In 2003, Such Sweet Thunder finally was published. Critics praised its lyrical prose, which captures Black domestic life and coming of age in early 20th century Kansas City.