Chester Arthur Franklin was a leading African American editor and publisher of the Kansas City Call, who used his newspaper platform to advocate for systemic change and equity, both for Kansas City’s black community and for African Americans nationwide. By the time of his death in 1955, Franklin had served as a prominent publisher over 30 years and was heavily impressed in Kansas City’s memory as an editor, activist, and leader.
“The black schools [in Kansas City] were much better than they had any right to be, partly because they were full of talented teachers who would have been teaching in college had they been white, and partly because Negro parents and children simply refused to be licked by segregation.” Then-reporter Roy Wilkins’s statement about education in the Kansas City area aptly summarizes the unjust obstacles that segregation created for black students, their parents, and educators at the segregated schools of Kansas City. Before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which declared separate public schools for white and black students to be unequal and unconstitutional, black communities and activists made personal sacrifices in their fight for quality educations; they arguably had to do so afterward, as well. The African American schools that managed to stay open in the Kansas City area during segregation did so despite discriminatory policies that frequently underfunded, closed, and overcrowded schools.
Vocal in print and at the podium, publisher Nelson Crews purchased the Kansas City Sun newspaper and trumpeted a message of advancement. Its reporters covered every aspect of the Kansas City African American community and integrated an organization previously closed to African American workers. Meanwhile his brother James established one of Kansas City’s most important African American institutions, the YMCA at 1824 Paseo.