African-Americans | KCUR


LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library / UMKC

The photographs tell a story in themselves: images that feel familiar because we recognize our city in the background, and all too familiar because we still see agitated people, most of them black, fleeing through clouds of tear gas or standing alone in front of police lines.

But the photographs don't tell nearly enough of the story. That's because the images in the 1968 Riot Collection at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Library don't have enough information.

Tom Hellauer / For Harvest Public Media

Cypress Pond used to be a plantation in southwest Georgia. Old-growth pecan trees line the gravel roads that wind through the 800 acres of farmland, and there’s an orange grove flanked by patches of long-leaf pine.

Segment 1: A new group wants to make theater accessible to everyone.

What if you could see a play for free in a non-traditional venue? Well, now you can. The Kansas City Public Theatre kicks off its first season this fall, but it's already staging some monthly readings at a local bar. We talk with its executive artistic director and a playwright, whose work will be performed on Monday.

Segment 1: Meet Aaron Rahsaan Thomas.

He's a screenwriter and producer who is originally from KCK. Last week, he was in a photo of black creatives in Hollywood that went viral. Hear his story — and how that photo changed how some people see race in the industry.

  • Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, Executive Producer of "S.W.A.T." on CBS

Segment 2, beginning at 17:56: Mosquito experts swarm KC.

Segment 1: Why barber shops are more than a place to your haircut. 

An author with Kansas City roots reminisces about the unique relationship between African-American boys and barber shops in Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut.

Walt Disney Studios

The latest Marvel comic film makes way for fresh conversations on race, leadership and heroism.

The superhero thriller, Black Panther, easily topped the box office in its first week receiving attention and applause for its use of a nearly all-black cast and production team. On this Screentime, we take a closer look and explore what the movie says about society's evolving perspectives on race and culture.

Chr. Barthelmess / Library of Congress

Anyone who has even a hazy memory of Bob Marley's song "Buffalo Soldier" knows the broad historical brush strokes of the African-American soldiers.

"Stolen from Africa, brought to America," the song goes. "Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival."

The full history is more complicated.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

A statue at Fort Leavenworth pays tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers, the all African-American calvary formed after the Civil War. Today, John Bruce and George Pettigrew of the Buffalo Soldiers Alexander/Madison Chapter of Greater Kansas City explain the origins and accomplishments of these soldiers, who served with distinction until the last Buffalo Soldier units were disbanded in 1951.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

While Kansas City has a long tradition of black artists, their work tends to get overlooked, says textiles artist Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin. Today, we learn about a community project that's giving these local creatives online posterity. Then, we hear excerpts from a conversation with Democratic Missouri Rep.

Paul Andrews /

Sheri "Purpose" Hall is a spoken word poet, an author, an ordained minister and an activist. She's represented Kansas City in national poetry slams and recently, a video of her performing one of her poems, "Irregular Rape Poem," has gone viral. Hear her story.



For an artist, one year is plenty of time to develop new techniques and mature. Today, we check in on local artist Rodolfo Marron, who, after two residencies in New York, has returned to Kansas City with a new exhibit. Then, learn about Liberty's African-American heritage from the group dedicated to documenting and preserving its history.


Hear the stories behind this year's Day of the Dead altars at the Mattie Rhodes Gallery, then meet a local spoken word poet/minister.


The Westport Post Office recently moved to shut down the DIY herb garden in its front lawn. The gardener, and neighbor of the post office, shares her story.

Plus, a rebroadcast of our conversation with queer artist Carrie Hawks, whose film black enuf* encapsulates a childhood search for black identity. The Kansas City native returns to their hometown for a showing this Friday at the Kemper.


On September 15 in St. Louis, a former police officer was acquitted in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. We check on the protests on the other side of the state. Plus, how the MeToo campaign is affecting Kansas Citians.


Gordon C. James / Courtesy of Agate Publishing

Sometimes, a haircut isn’t just a haircut.

When he was growing up in Kansas City, author Derrick Barnes felt like a new kid after visiting his barber.

“Man, to get my haircut on Thursday means that when I showed up to school on Friday, I would look so fresh, and people would pay attention to me,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Playwright August Wilson wrote a series of ten plays, one for each decade of the 20th century, that examines the black experience in America.

Sean Davis / Flickr - CC

In this encore presentation: Patsy Cline's last show was here in Kansas City in March of 1963; she died in a plane crash as she was leaving town. Nearly 55 years later, a young local singer shares how Patsy Cline has influenced her.

Then: Have you noticed that more and more people are saying "y'all"? A look at how the word has spread beyond its Southern roots.


What does the college campus of the future look like? An architect from a local firm sees some radically different changes.

Then: a recent article in The Kansas City Star says that the social scene here isn't inclusive of people of color. We'll hear how some young African-Americans don't feel like there's a place for them in the metro ... and how it's driving them to move elsewhere.


Donnelly College / Facebook

Faculty, staff and students at Donnelly College, a small, private Catholic college in Kansas City, Kansas, are celebrating their ranking this week by U.S. News and World Report as the most ethnically diverse college in the Midwest.

This week, the University of Kansas is hosting the Black Love Symposium. We meet keynote speaker, NYU professor Pamela Newkirk, here to talk about her anthology, "A Love No Less: More Than Two Centuries of African American Love Letters."

Plus, the "first Beverly Hillbilly" got his start here in Missouri. 


Florent Vassault

The consequences of a death sentence most obviously affect the accused, but everyone involved in the case must deal with the decision's terminal implications. Today, we hear how a 1994 death sentence in Mississippi is affecting one juror's life decades later. Then, we explore how America's legacy of lynching still influences race relations in Missouri, Kansas and throughout the country.

Sgt. Alicia Brand / U.S. Army

Few chemical reactions are as complicated to humans the one that elicits the feeling of love. Today, we learn about a psychobiological approach to couples therapy. Then, we discuss how racial tensions have changed in America during the Trump administration, and find out how last weekend's tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, has affected leaders of Kansas City's diverse communities.

Women are more likely to die in complications related to pregnancy and birth in the United States than in other industrialized nations. A look at why — and what people are doing locally to change it.


Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Everyone shares the same biology, but that doesn't mean we all enjoy the same access to unprejudiced medical training, health care or advice. Today, we speak with Dr. Damon Tweedy about being a Black Man in a White Coat in a country where being African-American can be bad for your health. Then, we get a quick recap of results from Tuesday's election in Kansas City, Missouri.

Jennifer Tufts / KCUR 89.3

Vacant since 1972, the first black-owned hospital in Kansas City – where black doctors and nurses could practice medicine and receive advanced clinical training – sits decaying under 45 years of neglect.

Once a triumph of community-wide cooperation, the Wheatley-Provident Hospital remains on the city's dangerous buildings list for an eighth year. Absent a plan for its rehabilitation, it could be demolished by 2019.

The NAACP of Missouri has issued its first-ever travel advisory for the state, warning of harassment and discrimination. A look at whether Missouri is safe for people of color ... and whether safety related to race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation is something that people think about when planning their travels.

The story of the Wizard of Oz has inspired people for generations. And now it’s back again, this time as an animated series on the Boomerang channel. We talk to the actress who plays Dorothy about her journey from small-town Kansas to being the voice behind "the ultimate Kansas girl."


Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

As families prepare to pile into cars for summer vacations, one new play takes a trip back in time to explore the experience of black travelers in Jim Crow-era America.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR 89.3

When Makeda Peterson was growing up, history was personal to her.

Her father, Horace Peterson III, founded the Black Archives of Mid-America. He also started Kansas City’s Juneteenth celebration in 1980.

As a current organizer and coordinator of Juneteenth KC, she is continuing his legacy.

The 25th annual Heart of America Shakespeare Festival is coming soon, and this year, playing the lead in Hamlet is Nathan Darrow, who you may recognize from the Netflix series "House of Cards." We hear about his new role, then meet the family behind Kansas City's Juneteenth Festival, coming up June 17.