Kansas City, Missouri audio tour: Dividing Lines: A History of Segregation in Kansas City

Dividing Lines: A History of Segregation in Kansas City

Driving Tour

90 mins

About the Tour

Journey through the history of segregation in the Kansas City metro, primarily through its real estate. The tour is designed so that you can safely drive through the city at your own pace while hearing stories about each area you travel through.

Nathaniel Bozarth, ethnographer and host of the “Wide Ruled” podcast, narrates this 90-minute drive, bringing in interviews from several area students and notable city figures Sid Willens, Bill Tammeus, Mamie Hughes, and Margaret May.

“Dividing Lines” was created as a part of the Johnson County Library’s “Race Project KC.” The Library’s Civic Engagement Committee and Tanner Colby’s book “Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America” inspired much of the ongoing work of Race Project KC. This tour was made possible by support from Johnson County Library and the Kansas Humanities Council. It was produced by Brainroot Light & Sound. Written by Nathaniel Bozarth and Christopher Cook. The tour features music from Hermon Mehari and KC Jazz LP.

The content of this tour may contain controversial material; such statements are not an expression of library policy.

Banner Photo: David Wilson

Tour Producer


Johnson County Library

The Johnson County Library nurtures the community’s collective wisdom by providing access to ideas, information, experiences and materials that support and enrich people's lives. We aim to create an environment for people to learn, explore, enjoy, create, and connect.

Johnson County Library got its start in the 1950s in the homes of neighborhood families. Before they had funding, dedicated community members ran volunteer libraries out of their basements, schoolhouses, a barbershop, a plumbing company, a shopping center and a traveling bookmobile. Their hard work and passion soon led to an official Johnson County Library in Merriam, Kansas, which is now our Antioch location.

Today, Johnson County Library serves over 4.3 million in-person and online visitors annually from 13, soon to be 14, library locations in Northeast Kansas. And one thing hasn't changed — the Library staff are helped by 1,202 volunteers who donate more than 50,000 hours of their time each year!

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Major Landmarks

  • Country Club Plaza

Directions to Starting Point

The tour begins in the north parking lot of Shawnee Mission East High School (address below). The school has several parking lots. The correct starting point is located in the parking lot accessible from 75th Street, just west of Mission Road.

Don’t go to any of the school’s parking lots accessed off of Mission Road, these parking lots don’t connect to the starting parking lot.

School Address:
7500 Mission Rd, Prairie Village, KS 66208

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Places to stop along the way

The tour is best experienced in a continuous session. Therefore, no stops are recommended.

Best time of day

From dawn to dusk.

Avoiding work-days from 7:30 AM - 8:30 AM, and 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM will help you avoid heavier traffic on some sections of the tour.

PLEASE NOTE: Parts of the road near the start of the route have been affected by road closures. The road is now open to vehicle traffic with only intermittent lane closures expected. No closures or interruptions are expected over the weekend and the work is scheduled to finish by January 2021.


DRIVE SLOW: If your own pace is faster than the speed limit, the stories won’t fall in quite the right places. To fully be able to take in your surroundings, we recommend you drive at or below the speed limit at all times. Regardless of what you do, please OBEY ALL TRAFFIC LAWS.

SILENCES: The great thing about VoiceMap is that we take my cues from you...well, your location at least. Because VoiceMap is location-aware, you may experience a brief silence from time to time, but don’t worry, it’s because app is just waiting for you to arrive at the next location.

GROUPS: The tour is best experienced in a group so that the passengers can safely look at the spots we pass. If you’re driving on your own, that’s totally cool. You may, however, feel the need to pull to the side of the road from time to time. Please feel free to do so, as the road allows.

DETOURS: If you hit any detours, follow the new route that the detour signs advise until you’re out of the construction zone. Then, when it’s safe, pull to the side of the road and refer to the mapped route on the app and use the “Previous” or “Next” buttons to get the audio back on track


Excellent tour of KC. Thank you for bringing to light systemic injustices of our past. We need to learn and move forward for a better KC.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , 4 months ago

As the son of one of the persons interviewed for this tour, and who grew up in the 1960's and 1970's east of Troost, even I learned something new from this audio tour about the roots of segregation in our city. Sadly, we still have a long way to go in fighting racism and all of its manifestations. Thank you for putting this together.
It was very well done!

Posted by Mark , 8 months ago

This tour was fantastic! A few things have changed in Kansas City since it was recorded, but I liked the seriousness of the guide, and the inclusion of testimonies and stories from a variety of diverse people.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , 10 months ago

Wonderful tour! Very informative. Would love to see additional tours (organized crime, politics, etc)

Posted by S Ray Turner , about 1 year ago

Highly informative. Easy to follow & very educational.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , over 1 year ago

A great way to learn about a dark spot in the history of Kansas City. It provides great context for why things are the way they are today. Have already recommended to everyone I know!!

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , over 1 year ago

We took this tour on Friday afternoon and was very impressed with the quality of the tour. Loved both the history and current look at what we saw.
As someone else commented there were times we got twisted around.
Definitely will do another tour in other places.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , almost 2 years ago

I got a bit turned around at some points but it was very informative. The pacing would sometimes be off so I’d miss a turn or something but this was very well put together!

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , almost 2 years ago

Excellent tour. I would recommend to every human being.

Posted by Maria Sanchez ODell , almost 2 years ago

I really enjoyed this tour. It was engaging and extremely enlightening. I would suggest that maybe you all consider doing one for Wyandotte county? It has such a fascinating history.

Posted by Amanda , almost 2 years ago

We did it a few weeks ago. Got our church interested and we will caravan the tour on Saturday, followed by a Zoom conversation about what we learned. Great presentation.

Posted by John Scheuch , almost 2 years ago

We just drove the route with two college age kids and it was very helpful in light of the current sensitivities... I highly recommend!

Posted by Paul Ewing , almost 2 years ago

Good job I enjoyed the tour. The route took me past two of my childhood homes. The presentation of Block Busting and Red Lining were well done, I lived in that. I also went to the KC schools during the time of desegregation. It was much more complicated than you could present in this 90 minute tour. That's probably all I ought to say.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , almost 2 years ago

Very well done. Did the tour with my teenage daughter and it was just such a great experience.

Posted by Julie Lander Mehnert , about 2 years ago

Very well done. Did the tour with my teenage daughter and it was just such a great experience.

Posted by Julie Lander Mehnert , about 2 years ago

Very educational! I would love to hear an add on update with insights to both Latinx and Italian people movements and their impact on the city.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , about 2 years ago

Illuminating experience just like being taken around by an informed and engaged local resident. Some glitches here and there with directions but I was always able to get back on track and it was absolutely worth it.

Posted by ER Santana , over 2 years ago

This is a remarkable and moving — maddening — account. Anyone who doubts that reparations are due for persistent racism should take this tour.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , almost 3 years ago

This is WELL done! Please continue sharing the truth, in order for change to take happen!

Posted by Brian , over 3 years ago

Sorry for the typo!

Posted by Brian , over 3 years ago

I really appreciate this, I learned so much. Thank you! I hope this is the first of many more to come!

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , over 3 years ago

This was a very powerful and sobering experience. I’m looking at this tour for potential use as an education and advocacy piece for
the social service agency I work for in midtown. I can’t thank you enough for creating this amazing resource.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , almost 4 years ago

You are more than welcome. Thank you so much for considering it for use in your own programming. If you do start using it, please let us at the Johnson County Library know - contact the Community Outreach department.

Posted by Johnson County , almost 4 years ago

I took the tour yesterday and I learned a lot about how restate developers, banks, government, and every day people contributed and continue to contribute to the segregation of Kansas City, but there is hope. I would highly suggest the tour.

Posted by Jay H , about 4 years ago

Really glad you got a lot out of the tour.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, and: Here's to hope.

Posted by Johnson County , about 4 years ago
Dividing Lines: A History of Segregation in Kansas City