Media Resource

The Black Archives of Mid-America

The Black Archives of Mid-America, located in Kansas City, Missouri, was founded by Horace Peterson III in 1974. Today, the Black Archives houses some of the most important sources related to the history of people of African descent in Kansas City and beyond, including oral histories with civil rights activists, the original document freeing slaves in Missouri, the personal papers of prominent African American figures, and an extensive collection of historical photographs.

As is the case with most archives, the majority of the Black Archives' collections are only available in person. However, with funding from the NEH and the Missouri Humanities Council, the archive created a digital gallery of some of its photographic holdings, which are of enormous value in studying the history of African American life in Kansas City. You can also view a collection of videos produced by Kansas City filmmaker Rodney Thompson, including the above video and trailers for his film "I Remember 12th Street."

Classroom Connections

Comprehension Questions

  • What kinds of materials are held in the Black Archives of Mid-America?
  • According to the people interviewed in the video, why is the work of the Black Archives so important?
  • What are some of the challenges faced by the Black Archives in preserving the collections and artifacts pertaining to the history of people of African descent in Kansas City?
  • What are some of the different audiences that might be interested in researching in the Black Archives?

Using the Black Archives' Digital Gallery in Class

Often, images and photographs are used to support arguments made based on text evidence. The digital gallery offers an opportunity for photographs and images to instead be situated at the heart of historical inquiry. After students have looked through the gallery, using the tags and collection information to search for specific topics if they wish, they can explore the history of an image of their choosing. The following questions can guide their research, bearing in mind that it may not be possible to answer every question depending on the information available for a given photograph.

  • Describe the image, focusing only on what you can see in the picture.
  • Who or what is pictured? What can you learn about them?
  • When was the photograph or image created? By whom?
  • What kind of technology was used to create the photograph? How is that reflected in the image?
  • To what collection does the item belong? Do you notice any connections between the photograph you have selected and the others in this collection?
  • Do you notice any similarities between the photograph you have chosen and others in the gallery? What general types or styles of photograph do you notice?
  • What drew you to this photograph? After studying it and researching what it depicts, why do you think it is significant?

Additional Resources

The Pendergast Years, a digital scholarship program funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, draws extensively on images from the Black Archives of Mid-America in its scholarship, and provides an accessible and engaging introduction to Kansas City in the 1920s and 1930s—connecting the city to histories of jazz, African American life, national politics, and the Great Depression.