Students in the class taught by Dr. Pellom McDaniels III began their research as soon as class began and the requirements were stated.
“On the second day Dr. McDaniels said, ‘The honeymoon is over.’ I said, ‘Well, I want a divorce,’” said senior Tiffany Dorris.
The exhibit focuses on the history of African American social, cultural and political life in Kansas City from 1914 to 1938. It captures and showcases how life was in the 18th and Vine district during that time.
The exhibit began as a project to understand the origins of three Kansas City institutions (barbecue, black baseball and jazz). It became an exploration of the various struggles, successes and failings of a people, which, when combined, provide a historical perspective on the evolution of Kansas City’s African American community and the individuals who became part of the city’s most marginalized group, according to piece showcased at the exhibit.
Research for the exhibit was done at Miller Nichols Library, where students utilized resources from UMKC’s LaBudde Special Collections and Marr Sound Archives. They also used previous scholarly works, photographs, sheet music and lyrics, personal accounts, newspapers and census data.
Research was also gathered from the American Jazz Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the Kansas City Public Library’s Missouri Valley Room and the Kansas City Museum at Union Station.
“The exhibit was one of the hardest projects I’ve ever done,” Dorris said. “It took a lot of hard work, research, and long hours, but it is one of my greatest accomplishments.”
The exhibit highlights a variety of subjects, with titles such as “A Great Migration,” “Kansas City Sound,” “Kansas City Barbeque,” “The Black Church” and “Lincoln High School.”
The exhibit also shows the history of The Call Newspaper, which started in 1919. The paper at that time covered local and national news and included events held at local churches, centers, and anything going on in the African American community of Kansas City. The Call is still one of the six largest African American weekly papers in the country.
“I conducted a lot of my research at The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum,” Dorris said. “It was interesting learning about African American baseball players like Satchel Paige and Buck O’Neil.”