The Center is named in honor of Bruce R. Watkins, a political and social activist. Watkins was fueled by the need to recognize and preserve the varied contributions African-Americans made to the development of Kansas City.
The facility is located on one of Kansas City's major thoroughfares. It is part of the Cultural Mall complex, which includes the Spirit of Freedom Foundation, the Satchel Paige Stadium, an amphitheater and a hillside garden, which greets visitors with thousands of multi-colored irises.
The center provides visitors with culturally rich entertainment and educational experiences in the form of exhibits and displays, films, classes and workshops, stage performances and special ceremonies.
The center is open to visitors of all ages. It includes permanent exhibit space, children's workspace, resource library, auditorium, small gallery and glassed encased exhibit area for small pieces and artifacts. Admission is free, although there may be a small fee for some events and classes.