Best Book

A City Divided -- The Racial Landscape of Kansas City, 1900-1960

The most shocking revelation of Sherry Lamb Schirmer's new book, A City Divided -- The Racial Landscape of Kansas City, 1900-1960, is that the things we love most about our city are deeply rooted in racism. Most people would agree that Kansas City is great because it's such a homey place. Even Kansas City's environs -- with its lush parks and boulevards fanning out across cozy gullies and bluffs -- have the look and feel of a safe homestead. But Schirmer's research shows that the parks and boulevards were constructed as barriers that -- with the help of racist real estate practices -- excluded blacks from tranquil neighborhoods. Schirmer also shows how decades of corruption and neglect by city leaders -- particularly those in law enforcement -- channeled the community's sin and depravity into areas of town where blacks were isolated. Soon, Kansas City blacks came to represent "the antithesis of middle-class values." Schirmer essentially argues that Kansas City is a sprawling, metropolitan yin-and-yang symbol, a place where the most celebrated qualities exist largely because a huge segment of the population has been denied access to them.
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