Monday: Monuments and Memory
Scholars will spend the first day of the workshop learning about the National World War I Museum and Memorial, the nation’s official World War I Museum and a National Historic Landmark. The Liberty Memorial was financed by individual contributions from residents of the region to honor those who served in the Great War. The site was dedicated in 1921, when all five allied commanders gathered before a crowd of over 100,000; in 1926, President Calvin Coolidge officially opened the Egyptian revival style monument. At the turn of the twenty-first century, citizens supported efforts to approve a sales tax to pay for restoration of the memorial and to create a new museum, which opened in 2006. The state-of-the-art museum contains recreations of trenches and exhibits that explain the origins of the war and its effects on ordinary civilians and the military.
By engaging with the National World War I Museum and Memorial, scholars will learn about the important role that the memorial has played in the civic life of Kansas City as well as explore how the meanings attached to the memorial have changed over time. The memorial initially helped fulfill Kansas Citians’ dreams for their city in addition to honoring the American men who died in service in WWI. Today, the museum and memorial educate the public on the history of the Great War.
Tuesday: Politics and Progress in Kansas City’s Golden Age
Through an examination of President Truman’s career, Wide-Open Town Scholars will reflect on the important role that Kansas City style Democratic politics played during much of the twentieth century. A special focus of the discussion will be how the racial politics of Kansas City influenced both Truman’s worldview and the Democratic coalition that emerged in mid-century America. Scholars also will have the opportunity to view artifacts and documents related to Truman’s life and presidency and to conduct research for their lesson plans.
Wednesday: Culture at an American Crossroads
By viewing the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site and seeing his work displayed, Wide-Open Town Scholars will learn about the cultural environment of Kansas City and how its residents’ artistic output influenced national trends.
Through a critical engagement with the Country Club Plaza and Country Club District, participants will assess J.C. Nichols’ design sensibility and suburban planning efforts, while grappling with the long legacy of his discriminatory practices, in particular the development of racially restrictive covenants in his neighborhoods. While aspects of Kansas City urban development were pioneering, the urban plan and built environment of Kansas City in many ways reflected nationwide trends of the era.
Thursday: Breaking Barriers in a Segregated City
Wide-Open Town Scholars will learn about the 18th and Vine Historic District, Kansas City’s historic African American neighborhood. This neighborhood was a thriving residential and business district during the early decades of the twentieth century, as well as the site of the city’s famous Prohibition era club scene, the cradle of the Kansas City jazz style, and the home of the Kansas City Monarchs baseball team (Jackie Robinson’s team before he integrated Major League Baseball).
By engaging with the sites and history of the 18th and Vine Historic District, Wide-Open Town Scholars will explore how Kansas City’s African American community experienced the constraints imposed upon them by racial segregation, while also taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the wide-open nature of Pendergast era Kansas City. In the process, this community made major contributions to the cultural heritage of the United States.
Friday: The City Looks Toward the Future
On the final day of the workshop, participants will learn about Guadalupe Centers. Once a settlement house for Mexican immigrants in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood attached to the area’s Catholic church, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Guadalupe Centers is now an educational and social service agency for the KC Latinx community. The current building, down the street from the church, was built in 1936 in the Spanish Mission style and contains facilities for K-12 classes, vocational training, and recreation. Through their engagement with this site, Wide-Open Town Scholars will explore the long history of the Mexican immigrant and Mexican–American community in Kansas City as well as the importance of the Latinx community to the city’s future.