Kansas City Missouri 18th & Vine The Call

The Kansas City Call Newspaper

"The Kansas City Call," or simply, "The Call," was one of twenty-two newspapers published by Kansas City's African American community. It was founded by Chester A. Franklin and published on May 6, 1919, as a small four-page paper. It was the only paper to survive past 1943. In 1898, Franklin took over his father's business, "The Star," in Denver, Colorado, where he was the editor, printer, and distributor. In 1913, Franklin moved to Kansas City where there was a larger African American population, making Kansas City a better opportunity to grow a newspaper. When Franklin first started the "Kansas City Call," he could not find anyone to run his first typesetting machine. He was met with obstacles from the local printer's union. The union did not permit its members to work for African American editors, so Franklin had to teach himself how to use the linotype machine and the paper started to grow. Franklin also sought out his own talent. He hired young workers, who knew nothing about the industry, and trained them to be good newspaper men and women, good printers, salesmen, and clerks.

"The Call" started to flourish after Franklin hired reporter Roy Wilkins in 1923. Franklin wanted his newspaper to provide leadership in the local community by presenting achievements and meaningful endeavors in the African American community. He also wanted the community to be politically empowered and to speak on issues facing the black community. The hiring of Roy Wilkins emboldened these aspects of the paper. Wilkins was a strong voice against segregation. He wrote and argued against discriminatory "Jim Crow" laws across the country, as well as, in some instances in Missouri and Kansas. He called strongly for voting against politicians who supported such laws. Wilkins also advocated against Franklin putting the most sensational and negative headlines on the front page of the newspaper. Wilkins believed that the front page should be strictly for positive news that would uplift the black community. Wilkins would eventually see himself as the executive secretary of the NAACP until his resignation in 1977.

"The Call's" efforts in the 1920s and 1930s saw the African American community win several battles for civil rights in Kansas City. Blacks earned the right to serve on juries, segregation was reduced in employment and housing, and boycotts were led against a bakery that resulted in hiring of black truck drivers. Not only were Franklin and Wilkins fighting for the advancement of opportunities for African Americans, they also advocated against violence within the black community. Somehow this message was considered controversial. Franklin believed that the African American community needed to focus on bettering themselves with a reduction of violence, as much as it did on fighting for equal rights.

After Chester A. Franklin died in 1955, his wife Ada, and Lucile Bluford took over "The Call," and continued its legacy for the advancement of the African American community. Lucile Bluford worked for "The Call" for sixty-nine years. "The Call" is still in circulation to this day, and covers events in the black community of Kansas City. News of local churches, upcoming performances, sports, graduations, marriages, and deaths are some of the topics readers can enjoy while reading "The Call."



1311 East 18th Street, Kansas City, MO. 64106