The Pompeii of Kansas: Race, Environment, and Memory in Quindaro, 1982-1991
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In January 1981, Browning-Ferris Industries entered into a lease agreement with the Kansas City Commission of Kansas City, Kansas to construct a landfill in the historic neighborhood of Quindaro. This agreement resulted in significant protests by the Black community of Quindaro, which challenged the municipal government in court and built a coalition of activists who protested the landfill. The township of Quindaro has a complex history of interracial cooperation between the Wyandot people, white Free Staters, and Black freedmen. The landfill threatened to destroy the physical remains of this history. The contest over the Quindaro landfill should be understood beyond the limitations of a localized phenomenon. Prior scholarship in the field of environmental justice (EJ) demonstrates that African American communities throughout the United States are exposed to disproportionate levels of toxic exposure, whether it be in the form of PCBs, lead, particulate matter from coal-fired power plants, or other forms of toxins. EJ scholars have examined the social power dynamics that led to discriminatory exposure, finding that it is a phenomenon rooted in colonialism, racism, and capitalism. This article utilizes government documents, newspaper articles, letters of correspondence among protesters, and oral histories of residents to demonstrate that government officials in Kansas City purposefully neglected the health and well-being of the predominantly Black population in the Northeast, while simultaneously dismissing the historical value of the archaeological site. This article ultimately seeks to demonstrate that the siting of the Quindaro landfill fits into broader patterns of behavior by the government officials to exploit communities of color.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- A history of resistance -- The beginnings of a crisis -- Consolidation, impugnity, and abuse -- Community activism -- Environmental assessment & government intervention -- Memory -- Conclusion
M.A. (Master of Arts)