Kansas City’s 18th & Vine District is a look into African-American history


Kansas City’s 18th and Vine District became a community as a result of segregation.

African-Americans were not allowed to live south of 27th Street, according to the website www.kcjazzdistrict.org.

As a result, the 18th and Vine District grew into a business neighborhood. Later, jazz clubs developed in the area.


In its early days, the 18th and Vine District offered African-Americans an area to shop, dine, and visit with each other. It wasn’t uncommon for area residents to be discriminated against in other parts of Kansas City, according to kcjazzdistrict.org.

As times changed, opportunities to live and work, as well as visit other entertainment avenues grew throughout Kansas City.


Today, the district is home to the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, in addition to many jazz clubs and the GEM Theater.


The jazz museum covers the history of the music in Kansas City, including native son Charlie “Bird Parker. A statue of Parker stands as a memorial to the saxophonist.


Behind the Jazz Museum is an amphitheatre, which hosts jazz concert series during the summer.


We really liked the reflective art piece near the amphitheatre.


Please check out our post about the American Jazz Museum – http://thewalkingtourists.com/jazz-museum/.

The Gem Theater sits across the street from the jazz museum.


The Gem opened in 1912 as a silent movie house. It targeted African-Americans as customers during the days of segregation.

It eventually evolved into a performing arts center. Shows are hosted here, as well as the NLBM “Legacy Awards.”

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum sits across the street, in the same building as the Jazz Museum. For our story on the NLBM, please see http://thewalkingtourists.com/negro-leagues/.

The Horace Peterson III Visitor Center is located inside the lobby area of the Museums on Vine building. It’s named after one of the key figures in redeveloping the district.

The visitors center offers a look into the history of the district, including businesses and social issues. People are encouraged to watch the documentary, “A People’s Journey.” It takes a look at the history of the area.


“The Call,” an African-American newspaper is located along Vine Street. It opened in 1919.


We stopped in and enjoyed a couple of sodas at the Juke House. It’s a jazz club at night.

A mural façade of a city block stands near the Gem Theater and The Call office. Originally, I thought the store fronts were real ones. The painting is that good!


A few blocks away from the 18th and Vine District on The Paseo sit a couple of sculptures we felt we needed to check out. The Paseo leads to the district from downtown Kansas City.

The first was a sculpture honoring Salvatore Grisafe.  The 15-year-old boy was killed in the 1960s, while defending two women being robbed. The sculpture has two arms reaching skyward, “striving for greater goals,” according to www.kcfountains.com.


The second sculpture honored Dr. John Wesley Williams. He was the reverend for St. Stephen Baptist Church.  The Rev. Williams was the third pastor of the church and served from 1944-83. He was a civil rights activist, as well. The sculpture stands across the street from his church.


The 18th and Vine District is home to a lot of history. Fortunately, there are community leaders who have made it their goal to maintain it and help it grow. It’s an area worth checking out when in Kansas City.