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Protests At Country Club Plaza Reignite Push To Rename Kansas City's J.C. Nichols Fountain


The legendary real-estate developer's policies shut out black home buyers, helping create Kansas City's stark racial divides that last to this day.

The Kansas City Parks and Recreation Board is now considering a proposal to rename J.C. Nichols Fountain and J.C. Nichols Parkway, to remove the name of the controversial real estate developer.

Parks Board Commissioner Chris Goode presented a letter Tuesday requesting to rename both the fountain and road that runs along the western edge of Mill Creek Park, following more than a week of protests against police brutality and racism.

Many of the demonstrations have started in the park, near the fountain.

“The fountain named in his honor, as well as the adjoining parkway allow racism to take center stage in our most photographed, valued and visited destination in Kansas City,” wrote Goode in the letter.

J.C. Nichols is credited with the creation of the Country Club Plaza, believed to be America's first outdoor pedestrian shopping area, and many of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods. But historians argue his policies —most infamously, his use of "restrictive covenants"—barring African-Americans from buying or renting homes in his subdivisions are to blame for the stark segregation and racial divides that still exist throughout the metro.

Goode’s idea to rename the fountain and parkway quickly garnered the support of Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

“No person accelerated white flight, redlining, and racial division in the Kansas City area more than J.C. Nichols. The time has long passed that we remove Kansas City’s memorials to his name,” said Lucas in a statement this week.

This isn’t the first time there has been a push to strip Nichols’s name from the fountain.

In 2017, the Kansas City Parks Department removed a Confederate memorial along Ward Parkway, near the Plaza. That came amid a national discussion over such memorials, sparked by rallies of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

After the Kansas City memorial was taken down, the Kansas City Democratic Socialists of America launched a drive to have Nichols’s name removed from the fountain.

In the citywide debate that followed, the city council voted to rename the Paseo Boulevard after civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. Kansas City voters later reversed that decision at the ballot box.

Commissioner Goode wants to honor King by naming J.C. Nichols Parkway after him and the fountain, “Dream Fountain,” after King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech delivered during the 1963 March on Washington.

"Dr. King stood for all people in the face of hatred and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. His purpose of peace & unity should be celebrated and more accurately represents the true heart of this city,” Goode wrote.

The parks board says it has begun the process of considering renaming the fountain and will try to move quickly given current events.

The board says two citizen engagement sessions will be scheduled within the next 30 days, though no specific dates have been announced. Questions and comments about the potential renaming can be sent to kcparksengage@kcmo.org

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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