Historic Individuals of 18th & Vine

In collaboration with The Black Archives of Mid-America. The Black Archives of Mid-America serves to collect and preserve the history of African Americans in the Midwest. Our collections, educational programs, research services and special projects facilitate both scholarly inquiry and public understanding of African American history.

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Leona Pouncey Thurman (1911-1985)

Leona became the first African American women to practice law in Kansas City.  Her office was located at 1505 East 18th Street. Thurman became interested in law after moving to Kansas City in 1931. She worked for attorney James D. Pouncey, whom she married in 1937. She received her degree in law in 1949 and her practice focused on criminal law and divorce cases. Thurman became the first black woman admitted to the Jackson County Bar and had a license to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Among other things, Thurman was an active member of the community which included efforts to revitalize the 18th and Vine historic district.  


Homer B. Roberts (1885-1952)

Homer B. Roberts (1885-1952) started selling automobiles from the curb in Kansas City in 1919. His first office was located in the Shannon Building but due to his success, he built a new showroom in 1926 at 1824-36 Vine Street. Roberts become known as the first black automobile dealership in the country. The Roberts Motor Mart sold many different brands including Fords, Chevrolets, Whippets, Marmons and Hupmobiles. In addition to the showroom and garage, the size of the building allowed space for businesses and was referred to as the “The Negro Shopping Center”. Retail businesses located there included the Emelen Shop, Roberts Building Lunch, Inez Dress Shop, the Allan School of Beauty Culture and Beauty Shop and many more.

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Horace M. Peterson III (1945-1992)

Mr. Peterson founded the Black Archives of Mid-America, Inc. in Kansas City’s 18th and Vine Historic District in May of 1974. Through his tenancy and the generous donations of community members, the Black Archives built an outstanding collection of documents, photographs, rare books and artifacts that illuminate the African American experience in Kansas City and beyond.

Peterson’s vision also encompassed the revitalization of the 18th and Vine Historic District, but he tragically died before that vision could been fulfilled.