Kansas City is the 9th most racially segregated and the 5th most economically segregated city in America. Troost Avenue, a 10.7 mile street running north-south through Kansas City demarcates the segregation most starkly.
Dubbed “The Troost Wall,” the street represents a legacy of institutionalized discrimination in business and politics as well as misguided social perceptions.
The Racial Dot Map above illustrates segregation in Kansas City using different colored dots to represent clusters of 25 people. The map is based off the latest census data from 2010. Troost Avenue, marked by a red line, is easily identifiable as the line of racial segregation in the city.
The history of Troost Avenue can be traced as far back as the 1700s to the displacement of the Osage Nation whose former canoe trail is delineated by its path.In the early 1800s, the area east of Troost Avenue was populated by a 365-acre slave plantation. The slaves’ labor mainly consisted of clearing the forested areas that surrounded the plantation. The cleared area became the setting for a neighborhood known as “Millionaire’s Row.” In the late 1800s, the country experienced an economic boom followed by a crash, which prompted the construction and then under-market sale of homes on plots east of Troost.
From 1908 through the 1940s, real estate covenants and deed restrictions, a.k.a. redlining, prohibited housing sales to African Americans in neighborhoods west of Troost. Practices such as blockbusting, using fear tactics to convince homeowners to sell cheap and relocate to a different “all white” neighborhood because African Americans were moving in, created even more housing segregation in the city.
In 1955, to comply with the Brown vs. Board ruling that desegregated schools, city planners used Troost Avenue as a boundary line, perpetuating racial segregation. Even after several Supreme Court rulings in the first half of the 19th century outlawed practices such as deed restrictions, and major advances for civil rights were made in the 1950s and ‘60s, racial divisions in Kansas City remained.
Deed restrictions for certain races and ethnicities continued, and many of them are still listed on properties and neighborhood contracts today.
Economic and educational inequalities arose as a result of the devaluation of the area west of Troost by real estate giants. The manipulation of attendance boundaries by the KCMO school board still significantly affects residents and businesses east of Troost to this day.
Building the Troost Wall took decades of intentional discrimination and injustice. Tearing it down will take intentional prayer and a relentless stand against the sin that created it: prejudice. We believe we can start the process of dismantling it with our prayer, our unity, and our action.