The race consciousness, self-confidence, and assertiveness demonstrated by African Americans during the post-war period would come to be defined as the “New Negro” era. Led by race leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Alain Leroy Locke, the future of African Americans would depend upon what the group wanted in spite of what white America had designated as their so-called place in society. From the stronghold of community, African Americans articulated the uniqueness and the strength of African American culture and the importance of its African roots through the Harlem Renaissance.
During the post-war years, Kansas City, Missouri, became the convergent center for African Americans from the rural areas surrounding the city, and from small mid-western towns in Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. The urban environment would present certain opportunities for transformation, which would help shape and later define African American culture within the context of the city. The same spirit that informed the Harlem Renaissance was responsible for the explosion of African American entrepreneurship, artistic exploration, and industry found in the area surrounding 18th &Vine.
Seeded by the migration of African Americans from the South to the North seeking opportunity, and supported by the new attitude developed during the post-war era, the Harlem Renaissance featured a variety of black artists and intellectuals advancing the transformative process found in self-discovery and community. Among the most prominent contributors to this rebirth was the writer Langston Hughes (who was born in Joplin, Missouri and raised in Lawrence, Kansas), and painter Aaron Douglass (who was born in Topeka, Kansas).
Indeed, from the founding of the black weekly The Call and the Negro National League, to the birth of the Kansas City Sound, black Kansas Citians struggled for racial equality within the guise of the New Negro movement and found their freedom linked to their abilities to perform.
Kansas-Citians & Kansas City Organizations that paved the way for future generations of proud African American citizens:
The Paseo YMCA in Kansas CIty, Missouri from The Crisis (Aug 1915)
Constructed in 1914, the Paseo YMCA has had a significant role in the unfolding history of the African American community in Kansas City, Missouri, especially in the 18th & Vine district...
Image courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library Missouri Valley Room Special Collections.
Myrtle Foster Cook, from Elizabeth Lindsay Davis, Lifting as they Climb, 1933
Canadian born Myrtle Foster Cook was an active clubwoman in Kansas City, Missouri during the early part of the twentieth century....
Colored Surgeon in Chief Kansas City, Missouri, from The Crisis (Sept. 1914)
In 1908, after the city of Kansas City, Missouri built a new General Hospital for whites the old hospital was designated as the facility for blacks and Hispanics. By 1914, General Hospital number two would become the first “city owned medical facility run by African Americans with a staff of black nurses and doctors.” In the July 1915 issue of the NAACP’s publication The Crisis, the hospital’s significance is recognized....
William H. Clark, Sr. (1891-1972), circa 1917-1919
During WWI, First Lieutenant William H. Clark of Kansas City, Kansas, served with distinction while deployed to the front lines in France. In a 1965 interview with Marie Ross of the Call newspaper, Clark recounts the moments leading up to the death of Private Wayne Minor of Kansas City, Missouri, the last African American to die during the final hours of the war....
Vernon Coffey, circa 1919
Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1890, Vernon Coffey served as a member of the 93rd division in France during World War I. Coffey would distinguish himself as a soldier, fighting for the French on behalf of the United States....
Image courtesy of the National World War I Museum Collections
Colored Veterans of the 25th Infantry, circa, 1918
Stationed at Fort Huachuca during World War I, the 25th Infantry boasted a roster of future Negro baseball leagues stars. A number of these men, including Charles Wilburn “Bullet Joe” Rogan (1863-1967), would make the Kansas City Monarchs...
Image courtesy of the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum
Wayne Minor , circa, 1919
A private during World War I, Wayne Minor was killed on November 11, 1918, just three hours before the peace treaty was signed...
Image courtesy of the Black Archives of Mid-America
Charlie "Yardbird" Parker (1920 - 1948)
Charlie “Yardbird” Parker was born to Charles and Addie Parker on August 29, 1920 in Kansas City, Kansas. While still a teenager Parker would learn from the best in the region, developing his talent playing in the clubs in and around 18th & Vine.
Used by permission of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Libraries, Dr. Kenneth J. La Budde Department of Special Collections, Dave E. Dexter, Jr. Collection (Photo credit: Ray Whitten)
Chester Franklin (circa 1940-50)
In May 1919 Chester Arthur Franklin (1880-1955) founded The Call newspaper with the vision of educating and uplifting the African American community of Kansas City...
Image courtesy of the Black Archives of Mid-America, Chester and Ada Franklin Collection
Kansas City Monarchs (circa 1921)
Founded in 1920, the Kansas City Monarchs is recognized as the most successful franchise in Negro Leagues Baseball history...
Image courtesy of the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum