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Group says slaves may be buried at KCI, could slow proposal for new airport

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Posted at 8:11 PM, May 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-23 21:15:35-04

One man is leading an initiative to preserve the history of slaves who once worked and lived on land that is now Kansas City International Airport. G

Warren Watkins of the Watkins Foundation claims slaves were buried on airport land but airport managers say they have no evidence that that is true. The issue could delay a proposal to convert KCI into a one-terminal airport.

There's no debate that during slavery, tobacco and hemp plantations were located on what is now KCI grounds.  Thousands of slaves worked and lived in the area.  Watkins believes the are also buried on airport property. 

"KC Airport has no cultural resource management plan and in California when you're digging a hole, you have to have an archeologist there to look and make sure none of those bones pop up," said Watkins.

KCI executives say they hired an archeologist in 2006 to look for slave graves on airport land but no evidence of a slave cemetery was found.

Watkins said that slaves were often buried in a backyard with only rocks marking the grave; so there may not be any formal above-ground evidence of a grave. Watkins insisted that he is not trying to stop construction of the proposed one-terminal concept at KCI but he does want protections in place.

"Until that airport spends one dime and moves anything we need to have a plan in place, so we know what we're doing and what we're going to do about the history," Watkins concluded. 

Watkins is also hopeful that if the one-terminal airport is built, it will showcase the history of slavery on the airport grounds.