November 20, 1909
Louis Woods of 722 Charlotte street, owner of the Kansas City Son, a negro weekly paper, a negro who leased the Jewish Synagogue at Eleventh and Oak streets to open a theater for negroes, said last night that he was surprised at the opposition the proposed theater has received.
"For years I have been giving this matter much needed thought," he said. "I have seen white play houses in Kansas City prosper and added to every year. I noticed another thing -- that few negroes attend a white theater unless a negro troupe happened to be there. Then the first and second balconies are packed with negroes who pay nearly as much as those on the lower floor. It struck me that as all negro shows that come to Kansas City are liberally patronized by negroes, they might as do as well by a theater managed by a person of their own color.
"I talked with Sam Conkey, advance man for the Cole and Johnson show, with Bob Motts, proprietor of the Pekin, a negro theater in Chicago, and with Sir Green, supreme chancellor commander of the negro Knights of Pythias who just has completed a $100,000 negro theater in New Orleans. We combined on the project. It was our intention to have a chain of negro play houses over the country. We have been looking at a proposition in St. Louis.
"We had no idea that there would be any objection to our going by ourselves. White people usually want the negro to keep to himself, but just as soon as he attempts to do so, they object. We had no idea that we would meet the color objection with this theater.
"The theater was to be an investment. We examined the lease and found it without restrictions as to color. The building and the location were so well adapted to our needs that we put money into the business. We have let several contracts and have spent about $5,000.
"Had we known that our going there would have been offensive, it would have caused us to look for another location. So far as I am concerned I do not wish to raise any strife. I was born and reared in Missouri and expect to live and die here."
When it was known a negro theater was to be near them business men on East Eleventh street got up a petition remonstrating against the lease. It was signed by nearly every business firm near the theater.
A. P. Nichols, a real estate agent, has charge of the synagogue property for the owner who lives in Omaha. The principal objectors are D. O. Smart and the North-Mehornay Furniture Company. Mr. Smart has under erection a five-story building west of the proposed negro theater. There are many retail firms along East Eleventh street, members of all of which are opposing the lease to a negro theater.