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On the Trail of Black History

On May 2, 2023, the first site of the Black History Trail of Geary County was unveiled in a heartfelt ceremony, marking the beginning of an important community-led history project that will expand the narrative of Black experience in Kansas.

The ceremony took place at the William Leroy Talbot VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 8773 in Junction City, where a Black History Trail project sign made its public debut to commemorate the post’s place in local history. Jim Sands, president of the Black History Trail of Geary County, Inc., retired sergeant major, and former city commissioner of Junction City, told the story of Post 8773 in his speech.

When Black soldiers returned from WWII, they were turned away from their local VFW posts. But Sands described the importance of community and shared space for veterans, so in order to establish a much-needed resource for support and healing, a group of Black veterans formed VFW Post 8773. Over the years, it has served countless veterans and their families, and it has also been a crucial site for capturing their stories.Jim Sands

Jim Sands speaks about the Black History Trail project at the launch ceremony on May 2, 2023. Photo credit: Margy Stewart.

The importance of storytelling is central to the Black History Trail project. During his speech, Sands also shared the story of the Buffalo Soldiers, who belonged to primarily African American regiments before the U.S. Army was fully integrated in 1951. When Sands first arrived in Junction City, a few Buffalo Soldiers could still be found at the VFW, and Sands described his awe at coming face to face with “living history.”

“We have a lot of bronze plaques. Those things are great. They’ll tell you a story…give you a vivid picture. But to sit down and talk with an actual Buffalo Soldier, that’s a story. That’s a feeling you’ll never, ever get to experience again.”

When Post 8773’s last Buffalo Soldier, Wiley Morris, Sr., died in 2019, he left Sands with a task: to “make sure our legacy doesn’t die…and make sure that our dream continues.”

And so the Black History Trail was born in an effort to keep the stories of the Black community alive in Junction City, Geary County, and beyond.

The site at the VFW post is an important first step, but the Black History Trail will not be limited to military history. Instead, it will focus on the untold history of Black experiences in Geary County. The next step in the project is to uncover the overlooked stories of civilian life, with proposed sites including churches, neighborhoods, and a baseball stadium, with a special focus on Ninth Street, a Black business district that was a longstanding cornerstone of the community.

With the support of a Humanities for All Grant, the Black History Trail will have an estimated 12 sites this year, and the leadership is in the process of collecting more. Surrounding counties have taken inspiration from the project and have already begun work on their own trails.

“We want your history. We want your story,” Sands said at the closing of the ceremony, inviting community members to join in and become a part of living history.

For more stories and to follow plans for future signs, visit



  • VISIT the first Black History Trail project sign at VFW Post 8773

  • WATCH the video of the Black History Trail project unveiling ceremony

  • READ HK's Big Idea essays for more stories of Black experience in Kansas

  • COMMEMORATE Juneteenth. A federal holiday, Juneteenth recognizes and celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. 


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