Founded May 8, 1974 by Horace M. Peterson III, the Black Archives grew out of Mr. Peterson's desire to preserve the history and stories of African Americans in the Midwest. Since then, the Black Archives has built an outstanding collection of documents, photographs, rare books and artifacts, which illuminate the African American experience in Kansas City and beyond.
Located on the southeast corner of 18th and Vine in the historic Lincoln Building, this store offered a complete line of men’s furnishings, providing what has been described as “high grade” merchandise priced to sell to average working people by offering “emancipation sales”. This building was owned by a Jewish family, but frequented by African American patrons.
The GEM Theater is located at 1615-17 E. 18th Street. The GEM opened in 1912 as the Star Theatre, it was renamed the GEM Theatre in 1913. The GEM was built for use by African-American audiences and had a seating capacity of 1,414. Movies continued until the mid-1970’s and then it became a venue for live performances. Since 1997, after a detailed renovation to create a 500-seat performance space, removed most of the original interior, and has now become a venue for the American Jazz Museum.
The Paseo Y.M.C.A. was built by S. Patti Construction Co., opened in 1914. Within this location, eight independent black baseball team owners met in 1920 to form the Negro Leagues. The Paseo Y served the community from its opening in 1914 until it closed in the 1970s. In recent years, the building has been repurposed and renamed in honor of Buck O'Neil.
Owner, Reuben Street standing in front of the Street Hotel located at 1508-12 E. 18th Street. The hotel housed both the Blue Room and the Rose Room. The Blue Room, a cocktail lounge, was home to Kansas City jazz and hosted such celebrities as Bert Williams and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. The restaurant, called the Rose Room, was considered one of the most beautiful eating establishments in the midwest.
The Blue Room was located on the first floor of the Street Hotel, owned by Reuben and Ella Street. The Blue Room was instrumental in showcasing musicians in Kansas City.
Myra Taylor began her career in 1932 as a dancer in clubs around the Eighteenth and Vine district. She performed with Clarence Love, Jay McShannn, and Nat “King” Cole. Ms. Taylor traveled extensively to Germany, Australia, China, Vietnam, Norway and Belgium to name a few. Ms. Taylor recorded The Spider and the Fly which hit the top of the charts in the 1940s. It is hard to describe Myra Taylor because she was a jazz entertainer, singer, dancer, actress, comedienne, composer, recording artist, and U.S.O. Entertainer during WWII, and in Korea and Vietnam. Myra Taylor was one of the last links to Kansas City jazz heyday.
Ada Franklin's Milestones of a Race by UnknownThe Black Archives of Mid-America
Ada Franklin, the wife of Chester Franklin, owner of the Kansas City Call, wrote "Milestones of a Race" in the 1920s which highlighted the achievements of African Americans throughout history. This play was produced all across the United States. This photo is taken from the Kansas City production in 1926.
Ada Franklin in Blue Dress by UnknownThe Black Archives of Mid-America
Ada Franklin is pictured here in a blue dress with a pink sash.
Leona Pouncey Thurman received law degrees in 1949 from Howard University and became the first Black woman to practice law in Kansas City. Thurman's 34 year career, focused on criminal cases in the early years of her practice, but soon shifted to divorce cases.
J. Edward Perry was born in Texas in 1870 to former slaves. Perry graduated from Meharry Medical College in 1895 and afterwards moved to Kansas City in 1903 where he opened the Perry Sanitarium in his home. home, which also included a training nursing school for blacks. Later, the Sanitorium outgrew its space and moved into a new facility changing the name to Wheatley-Provident Hospital. Dr. Perry collaborated with Dr. Thomas C. Unthank (black) and Dr. Katherine Berry Richardson (white) to bring better health care options to the Kansas City Black community.
Henry Perry was born about 1875 in Shelby County, Tennessee near Memphis. He worked in steamboat restaurants on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and in 1907, he moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Perry began his enterprise cooking at an ally stand to customers in the Garment District and did considerable business with his smoked meats which he wrapped in newspapers.The barbequed meats that Perry sold included beef, poultry, pork and wild game. To complement his meats, Perry developed a spicy, peppery sauce. With the business doing well, Perry moved his stand into the black community at 17th and Lydia, eventually opening a restaurant at 19th and Highland. This restaurant, an old trolley barn, was the location during most of the 1920s and 1930s.
Perry died on March 22, 1940. The influence of Perry, known as the the “Barbeque King” continued to extend into the barbeque community to both Arthur Bryants and Gates & Son Bar-B-Q. Also known as the “Father of Kansas City barbeque,” Perry became the first recorded successful barbeque business in Kansas City.
The Kansas City Monarchs was a team in the Negro Leagues Baseball and won many of the championship playoffs in the 1920s.
Jordan "Buck" O'Neil played in the Negro Leagues and managed teams, mostly with the Kansas City Monarchs. O'Neil also worked as a scout, becoming the first African American coach in Major League Baseball.
Horace Peterson, III founded the Black Archives of Mid-America, Inc. in 1974. The Black Archives grew out of Horace Peterson's passion to preserve the history and stories of African Amerians in the Midwest. Through his tenacity and the generous donations of community members, the Black Archives built an outstanding collection of documents, photographs, rare books and artifacts that illuminate the African American experience in Kansas City and beyond.