Sonny Gibson began his 25-year effort to unearth Kansas City's African American past with serious doubts. So much was unrecorded and seemingly unknown that he feared "the history of 'Negroes' was as good as lost."
He pressed on, however, scouring libraries, archives, flea markets, and old book stores. He waded through old magazines, newspapers, and other memorabilia. What Gibson found was a trove of materials - photographs, handbills, advertisements, newspaper clippings, social announcements, and other artifacts dating to the 1860s - that he features in his new coffee table-style book, Kansas City Early Negro History.
The lifelong Kansas City resident and historian discusses the book on Tuesday, December 2, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
The event is co-sponsored by Kansas City's Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center.
Early Negro History offers a written and pictorial window into the lives, times, and events of the African American community during Kansas City's formative years and into the 20th century. One set of photos, taken in 1908, gives us a look at the city's first Negro fire station at 1812 Vine. Another photograph from the NAACP convention held in KC in 1948 shows a crowd of attendees beneath a banner pleading, "End Jim Crow in the armed forces now."
There are articles and photos from educational, entertainment, and social venues and events. An array of vintage newspaper ads features, among other things, a "Colored-Peoples Summer Resort," "Homes for Colored People," and "Kansas City's Colored Dentist."
The book, Gibson says, is part of an effort to "raise the cultural consciousness of the current generation and set right the history books for generations to come."
Gibson, a member of the Watkins Center's board of directors, holds a lifelong love of "long-ago stories of Negro Kansas City." He also is the author of Kansas City: Mecca of the New Negro.
Admission to his presentation is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th and Baltimore.