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Lawmakers Seek Landmark Status For Old Quindaro Site In Kansas City, Kansas

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.8
The Quindaro site, including this graveyard where relatives claim ex-slaves are buried, may soon be a nationally recognized historic landmark.

Years of effort on the part of local activists and historians to designate the Quindaro ruins in Kansas City, Kansas, as a National Historic Landmark may be entering the final stages.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, along with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, have co-sponsored legislation to give the site the prestigious status. 

Quindaro is historically significant as a site where slaves escaped across the Missouri River from auction blocks in Clay and Platte County. It became an important stop on the Underground Railroad and played a part in the abolitionist activity of John Brown in the bellicose pre-Civil War days of Bleeding Kansas. For a few short years Quindaro flourished as amulti-cultural communityof abolitionist Anglos, freed slaves and Native Americas, and was a hub of business, cultural  and educationalactivity. 

Roughly 2,500 sites are official National Historic Landmarksin the United States. The sites are designated by the Secretary of the Interior and are entitled to federal funding and access to preservation grants through the Historic Preservation Fund.

By contrast, more than 90,000 sites are on the National Register of Historic Places, which are more locally signficant and varied in nature, such as houses and buildings.

Marvin Robinson, a community activist who has been trying to acquire federal recognition for Quindaro since the 1980s, said he believes it’s taken so long because the site is located in the heart of a relatively low-income, minority community.

“Poor people don’t have a lobbyist,” he told KCUR. “The site is in an underserved, overburdened corridor and we don’t’ have the corporate linkages to help push projects like this through.”

Jim Ogle of the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area said the legislation gives advocates an opportunity to overcome a major hurdle in their effforts to recognize Quindaro.

“We think any testimony about Quindaro (in Congress) will inevitably underscore how important National Historic Landmark desigation is for this site,” he said.

The legislation has been referred to committees in both the House and Senate and will be considred once the lawmakers return from the Memorial Day break.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer. Reach her via Twitter, @laurazig or email lauraz@kcur.org.

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
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