Kansas City History

Central Standard
4:16 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Unearthed Documents And Memorabilia Tell A Story Of Race In Kansas City

College dormitory at Western College.
Credit Kansas City Public Library / Missouri Valley Special Collections

Sonny Gibson likes to let history speak for itself. He spent 25 years visiting flea markets, poring over old newspapers, digging through archives and even knocking on people's doors, all to gather information about the daily lives of African-Americans in Kansas City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 


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Up To Date
2:20 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

Kansas City's Union Cemetery: The Garden Of Time

Grave markers at Kansas City's Union Cemetery.
Credit Union Cemetery Historical Society

Union Cemetery in Kansas City, MO is the city’s oldest public cemetery. It serves as the final resting place for some of the area’s early pioneers, civic leaders and veterans. On this broadcast of Up to Date, we look at this "hidden gem in the middle of a busy city" and the new book that tells the story of Union Cemetery.


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Kansas City vs. Baltimore
11:21 am
Thu October 9, 2014

How Kansas City And Baltimore Match Up Outside The Baseball Diamond

Kansas City's downtown as seen from the Liberty Memorial.
Credit Allen Brewer / Flickr-CC

Since winning the American League wild-card game against the Oakland A's and sweeping the Los Angeles Angels in the Division Series, the Kansas City Royals have brought a big shot of hope back into the metro area.

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Central Standard
5:47 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Hidden Treasures From Kansas City's History

This photograph from the Black Archives of Mid-Americahe shows the winning 1908 Lincoln High School football team.
The Crosthwaite Family Collection The Black Archives of Mid-America

When historians hope to uncover a new wrinkle in the past, they usually head to an archive. They dig through boxes and folders containing photographs, letters and other artifacts, looking for something that sheds new light on the past. Here are a few little-known gems, selected by Kansas City archivists.


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Central Standard
1:59 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Rehabbing Kansas City's Historic Homes: The Rewards, The Challenges

Kansas City is full of beautiful old homes, albeit in need of a little TLC. Investing in a home that's listed on a historic register or located in a historic neighborhood brings a closer connection to the city and its history, as well as a unique set of challenges.


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Kansas City History
2:28 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

The Types Of Things Lurking Underground In Kansas City's Caves

This addition to the already enormous 6 million plus square foot SubTropolis underground complex in Kansas City, Mo., is currently under construction.
Tumblr - SubTropolis Hunt Midwest

You'd never find it by just looking around, but beneath the grounds of Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun is one of the largest systems of underground businesses in the country. 

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Beyond Our Borders
12:30 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

How The State Line Has Divided The Kansas City Metro

An aerial photograph of Kansas City, Kan. (foreground), the West Bottoms and Kaw Point (middle), and Kansas City, Mo., middle-right) taken in 2007.
Wikimedia - CC

Eds note: This look at the Missouri-Kansas state line is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism. 

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them.

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Up to Date
12:40 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

J.C. Nichols: Controversial Community-Builder

J.C. Nichols shaped Kansas City but not without controversy.
Credit The World's Work / Wikimedia Commons

One of the names most closely associated with Kansas City is J.C. Nichols-- for good or bad. 

On Wednesday's Up to Date, we talk about this creator of the Country Club Plaza and what his critics say about him. We also examine what the city gained – and some say lost – due to the efforts of this one man.


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3:01 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

What Kansas City's Past Civil Rights Riots And Ferguson Have In Common

Kansas City residents march on City Hall to protest schools being open during Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral on April 9, 1968
Western Historical Manuscript Collection

The social unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of Michael Brown has sparked national conversations about issues stemming from racial and socioeconomic tension. But this isn't the first time these issues have reached a fever pitch.

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Central Standard
12:46 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

The History of Kemper Arena

The Kemper Arena has been a physical fixture in the West Bottoms since 1974.
Credit Gwen's River City Images / Flickr/CC

About four and a half decades ago, in a stunningly brief period of years, Kansas City built major public structures for air travelers, conventioneers and sports fans. All survive today, but one of them, sitting in the West Bottoms, is underutilized compared to the others.

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3:20 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Then And Now: A Look Back At The Battle Of Westport

The Harris House Hotel that stood at Westport Road and Pennsylvania Avenue served as Union Maj. Gen. Samuel Curtis' command post.
Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library

If you've ever noticed plaques in Kansas City's Westport district describing Civil War-era events, then you have at least a little background on the Battle of Westport, a series of battles that ended in a decisive Union victory and emancipation for slaves in Missouri.

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Beyond Our Borders
2:12 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Timeline: A Look Back At 40 Years Of Kansas City's Black Archives

Horace Peterson III, the founder of the Black Archives of Mid-America
Credit The Black Archives of Mid-America

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.

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Beyond Our Borders
2:11 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Three Prized Possessions From Kansas City's Black Archives

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.
Credit The Black Archives of Mid-America

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.

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11:31 am
Wed June 11, 2014

A Look Back At The 3 Times Kansas City Hosted National Political Conventions

State delegates, party members, and reporters filled nearly every seat in Convention Hall during the 1928 Republican National Convention.
State Historical Society of Missouri, Kansas City Convention Hall Records KO269

The Republican National Committee is eyeing Kansas City as a potential site for the 2016 Republican National Convention, and after a visit last week, the delegates’ first impressions seem positive.

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Up To Date
10:59 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Kansas City's 'Cowtown' Heritage

Local food critic Charles Ferruzza dives into the 'meat and potato past' of Kansas City's stockyards and steakhouses.
Credit Kansas City Public Library

Kansas City used to be the place, "where the steak is born." Now it's known more for barbecue than steaks and stockyards.

On the first half of Wednesday's Up to Date, host Steve Kraske sits down with local food critic Charles Ferruzza to dive into Kansas City's carnivorous past. 


  • Charles Ferruzza​, food critic.
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3:49 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

The History Of Troost

For decades, Troost Avenue has symbolized racial separation, income disparity and vast differences in home value as well as frequency of crime. But it's only a street. And at one time, it happened to be quite a prosperous street.

Hosted by Monroe Dodd, this discussion explores the specific decisions, both national and local, that laid the groundwork for Troost's transformation into a major metropolitan divide. Personal stories from a longtime resident contribute to this conversation.  


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Up to Date
9:00 am
Thu April 10, 2014

A Look Into Kansas City's Past

John Simonson is the author of Kansas City 1940: A Watershed Year.

1940 was a pivotal year for Kansas City. Tom Pendergast’s rule through corruption and debauchery had crumbled, leaving the new local government to reform a city hungry for jazz and liquor.

On Thursday's Up to Date, we examine how Kansas City was different in the World War II era. On the way, we take a look at how the “Paris of the Plains” changed from a den of iniquity to the city we know today.


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Central Standard
1:32 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

4 Things To Know About North Kansas City

In 1869, North Kansas City didn't exist. It was all rural farmland north of the Missouri River. The one bridge in the scene is the Hannibal Bridge but was only accessible by freight cars.
Credit A. Ruger Merchant Liths. Co. / Madison, Wis., Ruger & Stoner - Wikimeida Commons

There’s a community of more than 4,000 people that sits barely two miles away from Kansas City’s Downtown. It has its own mayor and city agencies and a major hospital, and it’s more than a century old. We're talking about North Kansas City, all 4.4 square miles of it.

On Friday's Central Standard, Monroe Dodd chats with two longtime residents of the city about the history of this town-within-a-town.

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2:41 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

The Celebrities Buried In Kansas City Cemeteries

The tombstone of Charlie "Bird" Parker buried in Lincoln Cemetery.
Credit CoolValley / Flickr - CC

Do the ghosts of Jesse James, Cole Younger, and Annie Chambers still haunt us? What about the apparitions of Carrie Nation and Tom Pendergast?

These folks all have one thing in common — they're all buried right here in Kansas City. So, for a brief moment, let's resurrect these long-slumbering souls and explore the fascinating lives of some of Kansas City's famous dead:

Goodman Ace (1899-1982) and Jane Ace (1900-1974)

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Up to Date
9:56 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Kansas City's First Black Baptist Church Marks 150 Year Anniversary

Kansas City's Second Baptist Church celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. The church was founded on the banks of the Missouri River in 1863.
Credit Second Baptist Church

One hundred fifty years ago the country was midway through the Civil War, and back then, Second Baptist Church was a mission known as a "Stragglers Camp" located on the south banks of the Missouri River.

These days, the church at 3620 E. 39th Street is reaching out to deal with crime and a high unemployment rate, and it's about to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington.

The senior pastors of Second Baptist have enjoyed long tenures.Over the last 150 years, the church has been led by just eight head preachers.

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KC Currents
11:37 am
Mon May 13, 2013

Reading The Rocks In Kansas City

Credit Susan B. Wilson / KCUR

Imagine a Kansas City covered by ice sheets, oceans that ebb and flow, or lush rain forests with soaring ferns and palm trees. 

These were some of the different landscapes that covered this area millions of years ago.  UMKC geosciences professor emeritus Richard Gentile says we learn all this by “reading the rocks” beneath our feet.   

Gentile curated the exhibit, Kansas City Millions of Years Ago: What the Rock Record Tells Us at Commerce Bank’s Box Gallery through May 31, 2013. 

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Up To Date
6:00 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Lawyers, Lawmen & Outlaws: The Irish In KC

Jackson County political boss Tom Pendergast
University of Missouri - Kansas City

The Irish played a crucial role in the development of Kansas City.  While their labor helped to literally build the city, their community found members on both sides of the law.

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KC Currents
4:41 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Book Explores Life And Legacy Of Pioneering Political Leader Leon Jordan

Credit Courtesy of LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC.

Three years ago, Kansas City police re-opened one of the most vexing cold cases in local history. It was the 1970 murder of politician and civil rights leader Leon Jordan. The case was re-opened after an investigation by Kansas City Star reporters Mike McGraw and Glenn Rice.  McGraw told us what one of the original detectives told him about the 40-year-old case.

“'I can’t remember a case with less info, more blind alleys, more possible motives, and more possible suspects than the Leon Jordan murder,'” said McGraw, quoting detective Lloyd DeGraffenreid. 

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Central Standard Friday
6:00 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

KC History: Wornall/Majors House Museums

The John Wornall House

You've driven past those historic houses in Kansas City, and no doubt they've piqued your curiosity.  What's inside?  Who once lived there?  And how do these places figure into our area's history?

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KC Currents
5:13 pm
Mon October 8, 2012

How Discriminatory Real Estate Practices Led To A Divided KC

Author Tanner Colby wondered why almost none of his friends were black.

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Up to Date
10:21 am
Mon October 8, 2012

Tom & Harry: The Boss And The President

In two weeks, attorney and film maker Terence O'Malley will release his third Kansas City-centered documentary titled "Tom and Harry: The Boss and the President."

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Central Standard Friday
4:26 pm
Thu June 7, 2012

KC History: Waldo & The Westport Presbyterian Church

From "The Waldo Story" by LaDene Morton
The History Press

Next time on Central Standard Friday, join historian Monroe Dodd for the history of the Waldo neighborhood with LaDene Morton, author of The Waldo Story.

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Up to Date
5:36 pm
Wed June 6, 2012

The Son Of A Bandit: Jesse James, Jr.

Jesse James’s son may have been a lawyer, but he was no stranger to the long arm of the law.

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Kansas City History
2:45 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

Reconsidering The Legacy Of KC's Champion Cakewalker

The Portrait of Joseph "Doc" Brown was painted in 1896 by Millard C. Haywood. Poet Glenn North says he originally saw the image as troubling, but came to see the beauty in it.
Kansas City Museum

Every month, the staff of the Kansas City Museum asks a local expert in some field to talk about a piece from the museum's collection for its Community Curator program.

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Thank You, Walt
12:45 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Walt's 'Loveable Joints' On KMBC

Walt Bodine has been a ubiquitous voice for Kansas City over the years, but he's also been a face as well. In these human-interest shorts that he did for KMBC starting in 1982, Walt reaches out to Kansas City by doing what he does best: telling stories and sharing information.

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