Yes, I’m Still Pissed That Slaves Were Held & Sold Out the Basement of Kelly’s in Westport

Can you imagine drinking and partying on top of a holocaust site?

Can you imagine drinking and partying on top of a holocaust site?

Any person with even the slightest sense of morality I assume would find the answer to that question so obvious that they wouldn’t even expend the energy to respond. Even as a rhetorical question, some might find me posing such an inquiry to be offensive. 

“commemorative plaque at the memorial site of the former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald near Weimar, eastern Germany” via USATODAY

The mere thought of trampling atop the location where one of humanity’s most gruesome and horrific tragedies was enacted would make most of us sick to our stomach.

“A rose is placed on the Holocaust Memorial on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, 2021 in Berlin, Germany.” via USATODAY

It is hard to fathom that anyone, other than maybe a Neo-Nazi or blatantly anti-Semitic white supremacist would seek to participate in such a cruel and dishonorable act.

“The words ‘#WeRemember’ are displayed at the facade of the Austrian Parliament at the Hofburg palace in support of the campaign for the International Holocaust Remembrance Day” via USATODAY

Why then, do we not extend this same empathy and historical respect to the Black people who were kidnapped, tortured, then held in the basement of Kelly’s, a modern remnant of Black genocide?

“Boone’s General Store & Slave Market” the image reads. This is an undated photo of a drawing of the building once known as Boone’s General Store. Photo courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library

The Westport Historical Society stated that they “can confirm what is undeniable using Primary Documentation Sources: Albert Gallatin Boone, a business owner in Westport in the 1850’s, was a slave owner. There is; however, no Primary Documentation Source or Sources to verify that Slaves were held, for any purpose, in the building that is now known as Kelly’s Westport Inn. All stories are based on unverifiable, unreliable, and unsubstantiated statements from 2nd, 3rd, and 4th party sources.”

Perhaps no 1st party sources can verify it because the first party sources were literal slaves! Damn these people can be so ignorant sometimes.

However, further confirmation is shown from a July 4, 1976 article in The Kansas City Star which conjured up the scene: “Below the wooden floor of the Boone store, one can hear muffled discussion as a buyer looks over the slaves kept below.”

Additionally, In 1929, The Kansas City Star wrote that “the store was said by some to have once been a slave market,” and a 1954 article spoke about how the building was a trading post along the Santa Fe Trail where “slaves in process of transfer were temporarily chained in the basement.”

Imagine the rage a Black person must feel knowing that the site where our great great great grandparents were brutalized, torn from their families and sold like chickens, is now a go-to spot for primarily old white men to get shitfaced.

Photo of old white men getting shitfaced from KC Star

The continued presence of the building is violent, anti-Black, and a daily reminder of Kansas City’s unapologetic past and present white supremacist terrorism.

Some of you might ask, “well that was so long ago, there’s nothing we can do about it now. What do you expect us to do just close the bar down?”

That’s literally exactly what many Black Kansas Citians have said should happen.

Photo taken by Zachary Linhares on 4th of July 2020 Anti-Independence Day Rally. Protesters chained themselves to the front doors to close business at Kelly’s for the night, and to symbolize the slaves held in the Kelly’s basement.

Numerous community organizations and civil rights leaders have consistently said it should either be a historical memorial or it should be passed off to Black ownership. Either way, Black people should be empowered to decide what happens to the building.

Nearly a year ago amidst the 2020 uprisings, the Kelly’s owners offered a meek apology, only after protesters lit fire to a buggy in front of the building on the fourth of July. The buggy, which was built by a local artist, displayed red handprints to symbolize the Black and Indigenous genocide that Daniel Boone, Founder of the building, helped perpetuate.

Protesters chained themselves to the Kelly’s building for purportedly two purposes; to shut the building down and close business for the night, and to also symbolize the enslaved African people who were held in bondage in the basement of the enterprise. 

Do these white people truly believe that a meager apology is enough to offset their building’s complicity in one of the worst atrocities in human history? What is with white people (KC Star as well) offering unsolicited apologies?

We do not want apologies, we want reparations.

If today, I broke into your home, stole all of your belongings, kidnapped your children and sold them on the dark web, then used the money I made from selling your belongings to get rich, would you be content with a simple apology? My guess is you would likely be far more insulted than accepting of an apology for such abominable actions.

In “Storied & Scandalous Kansas City: A History of Corruption, Mischief and a Whole Lot of Booze,” author Karla Deel describes how “the slave trade was welcomed and nurtured by proslavery enthusiast A.G. Boone … Slaves were held in the general store’s basement until they were auctioned off nearby.”

Kelly’s had this to say after last year’s massive racial justice uprising;

“We are eager to shine a light on any racial injustices that occurred in or around this building in the course of American history,” they wrote. “We acknowledge there are parts of our building’s history that are a painful reminder to the Black community, and for that we are deeply sorry. We want to bring them to light and respectfully honor the Black community.”

How in the hell can you possibly allege that you wish to honor the Black community by maintaining a bar with such gross history?

Here’s the thing. You don’t apologize for owning a bar that represents white supremacy and Black death. Just don’t own a bar that represents white supremacy and Black death. 

It cannot be stressed enough how irrelevant the financial investment of the white people who currently own the building is, or that it was passed down by their old, white, grandaddy. The fact they accepted the building is an act of white supremacy in and of itself.

It took until last June, amidst the largest racial justice protest movement in American history, for these people to cover up the plaque that honored the original pro-slavery, white supremacist bigot, A.G Boone. 

Photo taken by Ari Bonner

My hope is that one day these people will come to their senses and develop even the most minuscule sense of moral direction, and hand over this building to a more appropriate cause and ownership. That, or I hope the people of Kansas City will boycott this establishment enough until they go out of business. 

While even those scenarios would not bring true justice to the Black people who have been murdered and the descendants like myself who have been so ruthlessly disrespected, perhaps it will cause future white people to think twice before exploiting sites of Black genocide as business pursuits to make a quick buck.

The Kansas City Defender is a startup Black-owned news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through unapologetic, truth-telling. We have sharp and in-depth analysis on race, policing, housing, the environment, technology, local media propaganda and more. We are currently volunteer-based and depend on reader support to operate.

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