The Tour With ‘Love’ to Learn About Black History in North Omaha

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July 16th, 2020

Preston Love Jr. Tour in north 24th Street. Photo by Gabriel Escalera, KVNO.

OMAHA – “In 1984 Jesse Jackson was the first African American male to run for president and I’m the guy who set it up and run it. In the process, I ended up changing my whole concept and became concerned about social justice and all the things we are going to be talking about,” Preston Love Jr., says.

Walking on 24th Street towards intercession 24th and Lake, we stopped in front of one of the iconic buildings, the Omaha Star Newspaper. This newspaper that still functions as an information center for North Omaha since 1938. I was part of the “North Omaha Love Tour” and you guessed it right, guided by Preston Love Jr., makes sense why is called the love tour.

North Omaha Newspaper. The Omaha Star. Photo By, Gabriel Escalera, KVNO.

“But I want to give you a tour in another sort of way, about this community. The buildings are relevant but not the tour, the tour is almost as much intellectual as it is,” Love Jr., says.

The Nebraska Tour Company hosted a one-time free date, to experience the North Omaha tour.

The tour starts at the Great Plains Black History Museum at the intersection of 24th and Grant street. Preston Love Jr. has many titles, I wasn’t sure how to direct myself to him, I ended up just calling him Professor Love because he teaches at UNO in the Department of Black Studies.

Great Plains Black History Museum. Photo, by Gabriel Escalera, KVNO.

The introduction of the tour at the museum started with professor Love’s biography by himself. Then in about twenty minutes, I learned more about black history in Omaha, than I ever did since I moved here in 1996.

Freedom from the south and jobs at packing houses triggered the migration of black people to North and south Omaha. The “Red Line” is sort of imaginary “box line” that separated black from white people.  Within the red line box, it was its town, Blacks could not rent or buy houses outside of the box.   

Love Jr., was born in Omaha. He is a son of legendary jazz musician Preston Love. Love Jr played football for UNO. After having a successful carrier as a businessman and more, he came back to Omaha in 2006 to retire, however, he is actively working for his community.

“I am driven by the desire and demand that the truth be told about the evolution of the history of our community. So resist and push back on tours that are about buildings and people don’t know the story behind the building and about the culture that is behind the walking tour. I’m personally involved even tho I don’t walk that well anymore,” Love Jr., says.

Preston Love Jr. North Omaha Tour. Photo by, Gabriel Escalera, KVNO

We walked for about two blocks. Some shouted his name while driving down the street, but he is afraid not a lot of people know the history of North Omaha. We stopped at the “Preston Love Monument” in Lake street, named after Love Jr’s father.

“My original target was, even my community who live in it, don’t really know the history, but it has expanded because I have appreciated those who come from other places in the city who have a genuine desire to learn about the community and so I am giving to them straight. I give it to them the bright side, dark side,” Love Jr., says.

Preston Love Jr. North Omaha Tour. Photo by, Gabriel Escalera, KVNO.

His most recent organization, Black Votes Matter.

“Voting in the abstract but as a historian, I’m a big advocate for the needs of the community to vote, especially poverty-stricken communities because they under-utilize their vote with a few rare exceptions 2008 will be one. Election after the election they are not handling out business and, so, I’m here waving the flag.”

The tour lasted little over an hour, Love Jr. has a vast knowledge of the history and the buildings of North Omaha. In the middle of the tour, he sat on his walker to rest for a little and told us, “if I close my eyes I can see these streets when it was successful out here and busy with happy people.”

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