Rosemary Smith Lowe broke color barriers in a segregated city, forged Black political power, raised up neighborhoods and, even in her 70s, stood as a fulcrum of peace between police and angry youths.
When I got my first library card in 1993, I did not yet know that one day a Black man would be the president of the United States of America — or that I would grow up to become the mayor of the city I grew up in.
Rosie Mason was a law enforcement trailblazer, working 39 years in the Kansas City Police Department and serving as its first African American female officer.
Lt. William Dominick Matthews was an African American officer of the Independent Battery, U.S. Colored Light Artillery, at Fort Leavenworth.
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.
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.
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.
First Sergeant William A. Messley (also known as Measley) of Company C, 62nd United States Colored Troops, posed for this portrait shortly after his enlistment in late 1863.
Bettye Miller and Milt Abel, a husband and wife musical duo, reigned over the Kansas City jazz scene from the 1950s through the 1970s.
The brief yet distinguished life of Wayne Miner was defined by sacrifice and valor. The son of former slaves, Miner was born in 1890 in Henry County, Missouri.
Benjamin “Bennie” Moten was an influential pianist and bandleader whose career was essential to the development of Kansas City-style jazz.
Corinthian Clay Nutter was a teacher who fought to expand educational opportunities for her students. She was born in Forney, Texas. Her family relocated frequently as her parents sought work, and Nutter had to drop out of school at age 14.
John Jordan O’Neil was born in Carrabelle, Florida. He was the second of three children born to John Sr., a sawmill worker, and Luella, a restaurant manager.
Legendary for his play and his personality, Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige entered the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, the first Negro Leagues player so honored.
Musical giant Charlie Parker was a key creator of bebop, the jazz style marked by improvisation, quick tempos, and virtuosic technique. Born in Kansas City, Kansas, and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Parker attended Lincoln High School.
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.
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.
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.
Bernard Powell was a leader in local and national efforts to end racial discrimination and increase the political and economic power of African Americans.
John F. Ramos set two important precedents in Kansas City — he was the first African American to become a board-certified radiologist (in 1950) and the first to take a seat on the Kansas City School Board (in 1964).