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Public Hearings on Black Archives of Mid America

By Delores Jones and Laura Ziegler

Kansas City, MO – On Thursday, August 17, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon will hold public hearings on the status of the Black Archives of Mid America. The Black Archives is a collection of almost 40 thousand artifacts, photographs, documents, and memorabilia relating to black history. It includes civil war uniforms, documents and the personal effects of slaves. The collection is currently held in the old stone firehouse at 2033 Vine, once Firehouse #11, home of the first black fire company in Kansas City. But many believe it has grown too large for that facility. There is a plan to move the archives to the old parks maintenance facility at 17th and Woodland.

Horace Peterson (pictured) founded the archives. He grew up here in Kansas City and developed a passion for African American history. The Black Archives was his life work. Peterson traveled the country studying museum science and black history. In the mid 1980's, the Archives showcased some of its collection at a special exhibit at Kansas City's Music Hall. Peterson told Laura Ziegler that the exhibit reflected the breadth of the collection at that time.

It was a tragic loss for Kansas City, and for the Black Archives, when Horace Peterson drowned suddenly in 1992. Today, the Black Archives is struggling. Its board of directors has dwindled to one and it has filed only one annual report in the last 5 years, according to the Secretary of State. John Fougere is with Attorney General Jay Nixon's office. He says this week's public hearings are a response to repeated calls to address these problems plaguing this significant cultural institution.

Public hearings on the viability of the Black Archives of Mid America will be held at the Gem Theater Thursday, August 17, from 6 to 9pm.

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