The Northland largely white community makes a stand for Minority rights
by Peggy Bair
Parkville – History of Racial Conflict
Residents of the town of Parkville, MO will be the first to admit that it has a very checkered past, (if it is to be stated in the kindest terms), regarding race relations and racism. On April 14, 1855, an angry mob townspeople – angry over what they viewed to be pro-abolitionist views by town and newspaper founder George S. Park – descended up on the Luminary newspaper and threw its printing press into the Missouri River.
As slavery views went, during the civil war, Missouri was a slave state and Kansas a free state. But both states had both pro and anti abolitionist viewpoints. The bitterness lingered for the two neighbors who sat smack in the middle of a country torn between its north and its south.
From the St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, Missouri) 08 May 1855:
“The Argus affirms that emissaries have been sent among us to corrupt our slaves. We ask, do you know that to be a fact? If you do, why not send all such emissaries to the penitentiary, for tampering with slaves; it is much better to dispose of them in that way, than for a few men to take the law into their own hands, mobbing citizens, destroying newspapers and hanging editors. If you do not know that emissaries are tampering with your slaves, we submit the question to you (not that we respect your judgment) and to an intelligent community, if it is not wrong to mob a man on suspicion. In such dad case, there is no telling what number of innocent persons would suffer. Yet such is the result of mob law!”
Park was out of town April 14, 1855 – and ducked out to Illinois for awhile – returning later that year to continue on with other projects, including a stint in the state Senate and the building of what is now Park University.
Historical perspectives of the little Missouri town on the river include rumors of underground tunnels for slaves and stories that there are mass graves of slaves who tried unsuccessfully to escape – all which are subjects of journalists and scholarly historians.
Parkville’s Present Day Racism
The reality of racism continues to pervade American society as evidenced by attitudes of its citizens seen in recorded videos shared on social media and in police violence that most recently inflamed a nation with the killing of George Floyd May 25, 2020, by Minneapolis police officer Darren Chauvin. Four officers have been charge in that death. Nationwide protests are ongoing since then – including persistent and more violent protests in Kansas City, MO.
To address present day racism in Parkville, MO, the heavily white population gathered in a Parkville March for Unity Sunday, June 14, 2020 in front of Parkville city hall. About 300-500 residents stood with signs of protest against racism, silence and violence as well as calls for unity.
If the gathering’s intent was to bring the community together, it was also designed to give a platform for hearing the present truth about racism. Those attending listened to the lineup of minority speakers talk about their present experiences with racism.
Stephanie and Channing Doss were the event’s organizers, enlisting the assistance of the Parkville Police Department and Platte County Sheriff’s Department.
Here are their voices in the order of their appearance:
Roman LeBlanc (pictured above) shared that his young daughter invited all her classmates at school to join in her birthday party – but one child was not going to come. She asked him why and the child said that his father told him that “Black people are disgusting.” LeBlanc’s overall point was that racism isn’t something that children are born with but it is taught.
Sophia Dominguez Heithoff, a Latina who has grown up in the Park Hill School district, graduated from University of Kansas and will be attending law school in the fall was the 2017 Miss Teen USA. She spoke at the event, calling for actively opposing racism – and getting out to vote.
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All written content, photos and videos by Peggy Bair/Heart KC ©2020 may not be commercially reproduced without expressed written permission of the author.
The intention of this story and this site is to amplify the voices of the subjects of these stories. Please share the link to this page with others and ask them if they might take the time to listen directly to the experiences of those whose voices and stories are shared here – and to share these voices with children and educators for continued dialogue and discussions. No more silence. Stop the violence. Thank you – Peggy Bair
Peggy Bair is a Midwest journalist and photographer covering human interest stories throughout Middle America.
I am an alum of the English Department of the University of Missouri – Kansas City. I am a member of the American Society of Media Photographers, the National Press Photographers Association and Professional Photographers of America. I have worked on the staff of six different newspapers throughout my career and specialize in people stories.Your support of local journalism helps keep bringing these stories to uplift your spirits.
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