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Celebrating Black History Month and Niles’ Legacy

Niles Black History
Carter G Woodson

Carter G Woodson

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of the achievements of African Americans throughout the United States history and remembering the struggles they overcame. This holiday began as Negro History Week in February of 1926, led by Carter G. Woodson, considered the “Father of Black History”. Over the years that followed, it was embraced throughout the country and it’s believed that as early as the 1940s, West Virginia began celebrating the entire month of February as Negro History Month. It was in 1976 that the holiday was institutionalized as a month-long celebration.

Throughout the month of February, the US remembers the Civil Rights Movement and African American accomplishments in culture, the arts, politics, science, sports and many more fields. At KVC Hospitals and our Niles psychiatric residential treatment facility, we have been teaching the youth we serve about many different influential people, such as Garret Morgan, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass and many others.

Niles’ Impact on Kansas City

Niles, formerly known as Niles Home for Children, has been a safe haven for children and teens in Kansas City, MO since 1883. During that year, Samuel Eason, an African American bricklayer, began caring for homeless and orphaned children near the historic 18th and Vine area.

After Mr. Eason’s passing in the early 1900s, Dr. Katherine B. Richardson and other civic-minded citizens launched a campaign to build a new home to serve homeless children. In 1924, local philanthropists Frank and Emma Niles donated land and constructed a mansion to house up to 100 children on the same site as the current facility on East 23rd Street.

In the 1960s, the facility evolved from a custodial home to a residential treatment center serving children of all races who were struggling with emotional challenges. Today, Niles serves as a state-appointed foster parent for up to 35 children at a time.

In 2017, Niles merged with KVC Health Systems, and today it serves as a psychiatric residential facility for children and teens who have experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment and/or behavioral health challenges. To learn more about Niles’ history and Samuel Eason’s impact on the lives of children in Kansas City, visit kvchospitals.org/niles. Niles is also featured in the Black Archives of Mid-America Kansas City to honor its legacy and the legacy of those who have supported its mission.

Ideas for Celebrating Black History Month with Kids

It is important to remember the struggles that people have overcome in our history so that everyone in the US can live better, freer lives today. In addition, it is crucial that we continue educating new generations about the people who have accomplished so much for those of us who have come after them. If you’re looking for ideas of how you can educate and celebrate with Black History Month with children, click here for tips from PBS.

How KVC Hospitals is Celebrating Black History Month

Traffic lights made by youth at KVC Hospitals.

Every Friday during the month of February, the staff at KVC Hospitals have planned an afternoon of educational activities for the youth we serve. This includes watching videos, playing games, and making fun crafts. Each week, there is a different theme to these activities. The first week focused on African American scientists and inventors, and one of the people they learned about was Garret Morgan, the inventor of traffic lights. The youth made their own traffic lights with icing, graham crackers and skittles. They also played the game “red light, green light,” made paper traffic lights and discussed what the different traffic colors mean for drivers.

Join the KVC Health Systems team at www.kvc.org/careers