Articles

More than a century after the Kansas City Fire Department was established, Edward Wade Wilson became its first African American chief, capping a trailblazing career of nearly 46 years.
An actress and singer closely identified with the role of Bess in the opera Porgy and Bess, Etta Moten Barnett was born in Texas and studied music and drama at Western University in Kansas City, Kansas.
As the founder and operator of Mrs. Meek’s Mortuary — recognizable for its pink limousines and building facade — Fannie L. Meek was a trailblazer, one of the few women of her time to go into the funeral business. 
Florynce Rae Kennedy was a civil rights attorney and feminist activist. Her controversial tactics and provocative tone drew criticism but also helped publicize national debates on abortion, racism in the media, women’s equality, and consumer protection.
One of Kansas City’s best-known Black businessmen, G. Lawrence Blankinship Sr. was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1913 and moved to Kansas City as a teenager.
Gertrude Keith worked for many years to ensure that Kansas City’s disadvantaged residents had access to safe and affordable housing.
Longtime teacher and administrator Girard T. Bryant was the first African American to serve as president of Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City, Missouri.
The son of a farmer in Fort Scott, Kansas, Gordon Parks defied racism and his own impoverished beginnings to become one of the world’s great photographers, as well as an internationally recognized writer, composer, and filmmaker. 
Harold Holliday Sr. was a lawyer and legislator who devoted his career to civil rights activism. Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in 1918, he moved with his family two years later to Kansas City and lived there most of his life.
Hazel Browne Williams, the first full-time African American professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, exemplified academic excellence throughout her career as an educator.
Henry Warren Sewing founded the Douglass State Bank, the first bank owned and operated by African Americans in the Midwest.
Herman and Dorothy Johnson achieved success in numerous endeavors while contributing to institutions and causes that strengthened the social and economic interests of the African American community.

Hiram Young was born about 1812 in Tennessee. In 1847, Young obtained freedom
and with his wife moved to Independence, Missouri. Taking advantage of his location

Peterson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and as a child moved with his family to Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from Central High School in 1964 and attended Arkansas A&M College in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Hugh O. Cook, one of the longest-serving principals of Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Missouri, was born in Washington, D.C., graduated from Cornell University, and taught at Normal A&M College in Huntsville, Alabama.
As a renowned lecturer, clubwoman, and suffragist, Ida Bowman Becks led the local African American community in the pursuit of equality.
James Columbus “Jay” McShann was a prominent and influential jazz pianist and band leader. Growing up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, he defied his parents’ disapproval of his musical inclinations and taught himself to play the piano.
Joelouis Mattox’s dream as a young man was to teach high school history. Military service altered his course, but history — the pursuit and preservation of Kansas City’s African American past — remained a lifelong calling.
John A. Hodge, the longest-serving principal of Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas, was born in Shelbyville, Indiana, and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from Indiana University.
Dr. J. Edward Perry dedicated his adult life to providing quality health care to Kansas City’s African American community and advancing opportunities for Black physicians and nurses.