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Sunday, February 12, 2023

Segregation in Kansas City

Mark Dent at WP:
The Chiefs, who play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in a Super Bowl featuring two Black starting quarterbacks for the first time, have a proud legacy of elevating Black talent. The franchise’s early teams were stocked with overlooked stars from historically Black colleges and universities. Lamar Hunt, the team’s owner, saw the NFL’s racial biases as a market inefficiency to exploit.

But the city wasn’t nearly as hospitable. Black players such as Garrett struggled to find housing in a metro area that was among the most redlined in the country.

No place epitomized segregation like the Country Club District. In the first half of the 20th century, developer J.C. Nichols built a wonderland of posh homes, tree-lined vistas and cul-de-sacs that spanned more than 5,000 acres, emanating from the middle of Kansas City, Mo., into Kansas, where he planned several more suburban communities. “If Webster was asked to provide another synonym for city planning,” wrote one New York City journalist in 1925, “his answer would be Jesse Clyde Nichols, Kansas City, Mo.”

Restrictive covenants were key to Nichols’s neighborhoods. He legally bound entire subdivisions to ban Black people from buying homes. To ensure no one broke the covenants, he created homeowners associations to enforce the rules. Nichols wasn’t the first person to use these innovations, but he was the first to apply them over such a large area in a systematic fashion, and he spread his techniques across the country as an influential member of various real estate trade groups.

 The story of Nichols and Kansas City’s extreme segregation, exemplified by a de facto dividing line at Troost Avenue, have become an increasingly discussed subject among residents over the past decade. What is less known is how those policies were applied to Kansas City’s emblem of pioneering equality in the NFL: the Chiefs.