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An Interview With Thelma M. Dumas and Johnnie Mae Gentry
Not available online
TitleAn Interview With Thelma M. Dumas and Johnnie Mae Gentry
AbstractInterviewer: Edward Scott. Interview recorded November 20, 1975 at St. Stephen Baptist Church. 1 sound cassette (ca. 60 minutes): analog, stereo.; 5 7/8 x 2 1/2 in., 1/8 in. tape; 1 sound disc; digital; 4 3/4 in. Has printed guide to contents.
NotesBoth interviewees are members of St. Stephen Baptist Church and discuss the church and its history.
SourceKansas City Public Library; Black Archives of Mid-America, Inc.
LocationSC69-2, Tape 19, CD 19
Local SubjectChurches
African Americans
Oral History
Saint Stephen Baptist Church
Dumas, Thelma M.
Gentry, Johnnie Mae
Item TypeArchival Material
TranscriptionOutline of Interview:

Place: St. Stephen Baptist Church, located at Truman Road and Paseo, Kansas City, Missouri. Mrs. Dumas was born in Olathe, Kansas and is over 55 years old. Mrs. Gentry was born in Flora Alabama or Florida & Alabama line. Mrs. Dumas lived in Olathe until she was married. She was educated at Kansas University, Lawrence and Western University in Kansas City, Kansas.

Mrs. Gentry was educated in Warren, Ohio, then moved to Kansas City, Kansas and attended Stowe Elementary and Sumner High School. Mrs. Gentry's father was a very religious man and all others in the family were the same. Mrs. Dumas' paternal grandparents founded Methodist Church in Olathe, Kansas. After her father passed away the community helped guide her and family. The church is still in existence that was founded by her grandfather in about 1893. Mrs. Gentry has been a resident of Kansas City since 1942. Mrs. Dumas has been a member of St. Stephen since 1942 and Mrs. Gentry since 1950.

History interested Mrs. Dumas and when Rev. Williams came to the church during the 1950's, she was asked to head the history department. They started with documents that were passed down by word of mouth. Rev. Hurst was first minister of St. Stephens, and the first church was a tent in Belvedere Hollow in 1903. Mrs. Gentry thinks she inherited a desire to help document history. She also found encouragement in the fact that our foreparents had so much strength and faith.

There have been two hardback books written regarding the history of St. Stephens. One member of the old congregation had told of the 33 steps that were on the north end of town like a sunken garden, where services were held. These 33 steps that she mentioned were symbolic of the 33 years of Christ's ministry, says Mrs. Dumas. They were on the north end of town near Belvedere Hollow. It was really the bad part of Kansas City.

Mrs. Dumas thinks the idea of Rev. Hurst really starting a church, in her opinion, was the work of the Lord. The first building came into the picture in 1903, Mrs. Dumas says, at 604 Charlotte. Belvedere Hollow was known as Hell's Half Acre. Rev. Hurst had quite a job. Rev. Hurst baptized 40 converts in the Missouri River in 1901. Rev. Hurst died in office.

There were three churches; the second was 910 Harrison and the third was 15th & Paseo. Symbols of "God's Grace" was inspired by Dr. Williams who also inspired "Meeting Challenge of Change". Church voted to update its history every ten years, Mrs. Dumas says. When the church at 910 Harrison burned, the entire community was very helpful; other churches opened their doors to them for worship. Rev. Williams came in 1944 and preached for the first time on Men's Day. Mrs. Gentry feels that the women have always played a major role in the church with principles and integrity. At St. Stephen there ar 19 couples who have been together 50 years or more, she says.

Mrs. Gentry feels that the local church will always play the role of stabilizing the community and family. St. Stephen has many successful persons to be proud of, both ladies explained.
Access This ItemYou may come to the Missouri Valley Room to listen to the interview.
Item ID210206
CONTENTdm number36279
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