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'It just means a lot to me': Historical plaque honors Station 11, 1st all-Black fire station in Kansas City

Station 11
Station 11 historical marker
Posted at 8:22 PM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 21:22:07-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — We now know more about the history of Black fire fighters in Kansas City, Missouri, thanks to a historical marker honoring those men outside Station 11 on 2033 Vine Street.

“This is an adventure, and we are rewriting history, because it was segregated,” Michael Davis, a retired Black firefighter with KCFD, said.

The brick walls and pictures sitting outside of Station 11 tell a story about the Black firefighters who lined up for duty here.

"The men that worked here set the foundation for the future Black fire fighters of this fire department," Manuel Davis Jr., who spent 45 years with KCFD, said. "And that foundation still continues to this day, and it's strong so we can have more people of color."

Michael and Manuel Davis Jr. grew up in Station 11 with their father, who also served with KCFD.

“We have possibly 191 combined years of service within our family,” Manuel Davis Jr. said.

On Tuesday, the entire Daniel family also attended the ceremony to unveil the marker which honored their loved ones.

“Uncle Ray, who was the first battalion chief. Raymond Daniel, Cecil Daniel and our father Ralph Daniel. Together, they served 97 years on the Kansas City Fire Department,” Karen Daniel, whose father Ralph Daniel served with KCFD, said.

The stories and history of Black firefighters within KCFD are now uncovered for all to see.

The Gem Cultural and Education Center, KCFD, Greater Kansas City Local 42 IAFF and The Native Sons and Daughters of Great Kansas City all worked to bring the historical marker to life.

"To recognize the African American fire fighter contribution within our organization is huge and critical to us as well," KCFD Fire Chief Donna Lake said. "That's something that we have been working on, especially over the last two years.

On Tuesday, Michael Davis shared memories of the past from the time he graduated the academy.

"I came in the department 1973. It was only 13 of us in our class, and it was only two of us that was of color,” Davis said. "The department became a home away from home — an extended family that you protected, trusted your life with.”

Manuel Davis. Jr. also shared stories of his time during the department and why he decided to join the force.

"As a Black person, you just wanted to be employed, and so you get an opportunity to get on the fire department and then it becomes a job and a career," Manuel Davis said. "45 years later, the humanity part kicks in and becomes a need for the people."

For Karen Daniel and her family, seeing their relatives names listed on the plaque reminds her of how proud they were to be Black firefighters.

"For us growing up, daddy being a battalion chief and all that, it was a moment of great pride," Karen Daniel said. "But throughout our family, it was always about public service."

James Dean, deputy chief of fire prevention with KCFD, says as a Black fire fighter, this recognition and dedication is important. 

“You have to recognize your past in order to go forward in the future, because you can use the past to help you as an empathest," Dean said. "Saying we're going to do better, we are going to be better."

Now, the plaque will serve as an inspiration for the next generation of Black fire fighters.

“It's apart of honoring our ancestors that will forever be here, and we can send our kids and grand kids to come and see this," Karen Daniel said. "This is really important to us because we have that history and we know what to do with it."