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Native Sons And Daughters Unveil Historical Marker For Kansas City's Harlem

Cody Newill
The riverfront community of Harlem was honored with a historic marker Friday.

The Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City unveiled a new historic marker Friday to honor a Kansas City neighborhood you've probably never heard of before: Harlem.

Several dozen members of the Native Sons and Daughters, City Council members Scott Wagner and Jolie Justus and former residents of Harlem met outside the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport to commemorate the new marker. 

Harlem, situated along the north bank of the Missouri River, was founded in 1822, 31 years before Kansas City, Missouri was formally incorporated. It was established by German settlers who came from the original city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. At its peak, the community was home to about 600 people.

Credit Cody Newill / KCUR
Former Clay County Commissioner and Harlem native Charles Broomfield spoke at the event. He is currently writing a book about Harlem's history.

Former Clay County Commissioner and state representative Charles Broomfield spoke at the event. He was born in Harlem in 1937, and still has fond memories of the thriving community that once inhabited the area.

"It was a great place to grow up, lots of wonderful people," Broomfield said. "We lived literally and figuratively on the 'other side of the tracks,' but everybody took care of everybody else's kids and kept us all in line."

Credit Cody Newill / Google Maps
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Nestled on the north bank of the Missouri River, Harlem has existed for almost 200 years now.

Native Sons and Daughters President Gary Hicks says the process to get a marker for Harlem started about a year and a half ago.

"It takes advocates, those who have a heart for the community, and the historians who have broader perspectives to tie it all together," Hicks said. "Harlem really has a rich personal history."

The Great Flood of 1951 eventually led to most of Harlem's residents leaving the community, though it is still home to an apartment complex and a church led by South Sudanese minister Gabriel Riak. 

Cody Newill is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or send him an email at cody@kcur.org. 

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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