Dividing Lines: A History of Segregation in Kansas City
“In the twentieth century, Kansas City produced two uniquely American geniuses who would both forever alter the physical and cultural landscape of the country. One of these men built a magic kingdom, a fantasy world that offered nonstop, wholesome family fun and a complete escape from reality. The other one moved to Hollywood and opened a theme park.” - Tanner Colby. In his book Some of My Best Friends are Black: the Strange Story of Integration in America
Hi. I’m Nathaniel Bozarth. This is the Dividing Lines tour - a tour of the history of segregation in KC primarily through its real estate. I’m gonna be your guide as we drive through the metro and hear from a variety of Kansas Citians.
This tour was designed so that you can safely drive through the city at your own pace while hearing stories about what you’re seeing. But 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. 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. Regardless of what you do, please obey all traffic laws. The great thing about VoiceMap is that I 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. If you hit any detours, follow the signs and then, when it’s safe, refer to the mapped route on the app and use the “Previous” or “Next” buttons to get the audio back on track
The building outside your window is Shawnee Mission East high school. We're starting here because if you ask any middle class family with kids about why they moved to their current house, they’ll probably tell you it had something to do with the schools available to their kids. So much of Kansas City’s current make up is the consequence of these seemingly individual family decisions.
While you’re still parked, here’s Lauren Cole, a 2017 graduate of Shawnee Mission East, sharing her thoughts.
Shawnee Mission East which is fed into from Mission Hills, Kansas. Which is one of the most expensive zip codes in Kansas. And there's a lot of things going on in the hallways and in like in a high school experience that I wouldn't say were necessarily bad but ...there isn't a lot of change between person to person. And a lot of people have the same experiences growing up, hitting country clubs in the summer, awesome vacations, driving nice cars, and once you get beyond that in Shawnee Mission East and delve into our teachers and stuff, you've got like incredible teachers that are really a lot of incredible teachers that are really open and not only in their fields but want to expand kids minds in every way.
In many ways, it’s the ideal American high school experience. Exactly what parents intended for their kids when they decided to move into this well-funded, affluent school district.
Lauren mentioned that, at this school, you might be in class with somebody whose last name is on a skyscraper downtown.
Like definitely look around right before you leave, see all the nice cars in the parking lot. Understand we had to expand parking lots because our school didn't have enough parking spaces because everyone singularly drove a car to school.
Ok, so here’s where I become your GPS Navigator. I’ll give you directions like this throughout the tour. And if you ever miss one, you can use the Step-Back button - the 15 with a circular arrow around it - on the app to go back 15 seconds at a time.
Let’s start by navigating out of the parking lot. Head north (which is your left if you’re facing the school) toward 75th Street. Once there, take a right to go west onto 75th.