Kansas City's Montgall Avenue
Black Leaders and the Street They Called Home
Sales Date: May 30, 2023
296 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: May 2023
- Published: July 2023
A few blocks southeast of the famed intersection of 18th and Vine in Kansas City, Missouri, just a stone’s throw from Charlie Parker’s old stomping grounds and the current home of the vaunted American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, sits Montgall Avenue. This single block was home to some of the most important and influential leaders the city has ever known.
Margie Carr’s Kansas City’s Montgall Avenue: Black Leaders and the Street They Called Home is the extraordinary, century-old history of one city block whose residents shaped the changing status of Black people in Kansas City and built the social and economic institutions that supported the city’s Black community during the first half of the twentieth century. The community included, among others, Chester Franklin, founder of the city’s Black newspaper, The Call; Lucile Bluford, a University of Kansas alumna who worked at The Call for sixty-nine years; and Dr. John Edward Perry, founder of Wheatley-Provident Hospital, Kansas City’s first hospital for Black people. The principal and four teachers from Lincoln High School, Kanas City’s only high school for African American students, also lived on the block.
While introducing the reader to the remarkable individuals who lived on Montgall Avenue, Carr also uses this neighborhood as a microcosm of the changing nature of discrimination in twentieth-century America. The city’s white leadership had little interest in supporting the Black community and instead used its resources to separate and isolate them. The state of Missouri enforced segregation statues until the 1960s and the federal government created housing policies that erased any assets Black homeowners accumulated, robbing them of their ability to transfer that wealth to the next generation.
Today, the 2400 block of Montgall Avenue is situated in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Kansas City. The attitudes and policies that contributed to the neighborhood’s changing environment paint a more complete—and disturbing—picture of the role that race continues to play in America’s story.
“Woven with the profound stories of our city’s most influential Black leaders, in Kansas City’s Montgall Avenue, Margie Carr reminds us of the work still to be done in our city and country to address the historical and current underinvestment and systemic racism in our communities through the eyes of one block. We have the power to correct these wrongs of the past and create a truly equitable future.”—Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas
“Margie Carr’s work is an outstanding addition to the history of Black Kansas City and Kansas City as a whole. By examining the lives of the residents of this one block, Carr teases out important individuals and events that shaped Black Kansas City.”—Charles E. Coulter, author of Take Up the Black Man’s Burden: Kansas City’s African American Communities, 1865–1939
“Margie Carr’s new book is the extraordinary century-old history of one city block, consisting of sixteen Black-owned houses, which both shaped and reflected the changing status of African Americans in Kansas City, Missouri. Montgall Avenue’s initial residents included Black newspaper editors, educators, and businesspeople, as well as leaders of the NAACP and other civic organizations. And it was a beautiful block; its graceful houses featured lovely gardens, and giant elm trees formed a canopy over the street. Time and racism, however, have taken their toll. Today, most of the houses have been abandoned or razed. Fires destroyed some of them; dynamite hurled by angry whites destroyed others. Intelligently conceived, meticulously researched, and beautifully written, Carr’s book is invaluable not only for those interested in the history of African Americans in Kansas City but also for those concerned about America’s future.”—William M. Tuttle, Jr., professor emeritus of American studies at the University of Kansas, and author of Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 and “Daddy’s Gone to War”: The Second World War in the Lives of America’s Children
Part 1: The Foundation of a Community: Montgall Avenue from 1904 to 1919
1. Rufus Montgall: The Man behind the Street
2. 2436 Montgall Avenue: Hugh Oliver and Myrtle Foster Cook
3. 2444 Montgall Avenue: Anna Holland Jones
4. 2442 Montgall Avenue: Hezekiah Walden
5. 2434 Montgall Avenue: Frances Jackson, Carolyn Brydie, and Gwendolyn Calderon
Part 2: The Hub of a Community: Montgall Avenue from 1920 to 1940
6. 2451 Montgall Avenue: John Edward Perry and Fredericka Douglass Perry
7. 2453 Montgall Avenue: Homer Roberts
8. 2447 Montgall Avenue: Chester Franklin and Ada Crogman
9. 2444 Montgall Avenue: The Bluford Family
10. 2457 Montgall Avenue: Piney Brown
11. 2449 Montgall Avenue: The Pittman Family
Part 3: The Transformation of a Community: Montgall Avenue from 1941 to 1998
12. Residents Reach Pinnacle of Power, 1941
13. A Black Journalist Covering Public Spaces and a Horrific Crime, 1942
14. The Civil Rights Two-Step, 1955-1967
15. Surviving Riot, Attacks, and Decline, 1968-1998