Over forty years ago, Horace Peterson III started collecting relics of Kansas City-area history in the trunk of his car.
That collection grew into the Black Archives of Mid-America, a research facility, museum and community gathering space now located at 1722 E. 17th Terrace in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District in Kansas City, Mo.
A bumper sticker advertising the first documented Juneteenth celebration in Kansas City is a part of the collection honoring the 40th anniversary of the Black Archives of Mid-America. Juneteenth celebrations remember June 19, 1865, the day the last slaves heard about the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Black Archives of Mid-America has provided a place to learn about African-American history in Kansas City, Mo., for the past four decades.
And during that time, it has amassed a vast collection of papers, photographs and even physical structures to show what life was like as a black Kansas Citian.
As the organization celebrates its 40th anniversary this week, we wanted to know more about the types of materials in the collection that started in 1974, when Horace Peterson III founded the Black Archives.
In an age before the internet—and in an environment that in some ways promoted isolation and disconnection—African-Americans in Kansas City in the early 20th century still found ways to find connection and community.
Churches and social clubs have been called the “glue” that held the black community together, alongside families and schools, and a new exhibit at the Black Archives of Mid-America chronicles some of that important history.
Michael Sweeney, collection librarian for the Black Archives of Mid-America
The Black Archives of Mid-America recently completed renovations on a new exhibit and archive space and also welcomed a new executive director, Doretha Williams. Williams has a doctorate from the University of Kansas in American Studies and hopes to bring the community back to the archives.