Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Education: The Mightiest Weapon

March 22nd, 2017

Spencer’s current exhibit Education: The Mightiest Weapon is free and open to the public in the Spencer Exhibit Space through May 18, 2017, during the library’s regular business hours.

Field Archivist and Curator Deborah Dandridge with
her student assistant Arielle Swopes. Click image to enlarge.

“While white folks have been wrangling as to whether colored children should be admitted into the public schools,” reported the Evening Dispatch newspaper in 1859, “Mrs. Burnham, a colored woman, has been teaching a school for Negro children on the corner of Potawatomie and Third streets,” in Leavenworth, Kansas. Like Mrs. Burnham, African American settlers in Kansas found a variety of ways to pursue their cultural tradition of placing a high value on formal education, despite laws and practices that denied them equal access to all public schools.

Education: The Mightiest Weapon highlights the public school experiences of African Americans governed by the 1879 Kansas law allowing public school boards in cities of 10,000 or more to decide whether to establish racially segregated grade schools. Except for special legislation passed in 1905 for Kansas City, Kansas, Kansas law prohibited racially segregated public high schools. It features schools in Kansas’ urban and rural areas, African American state supported schools, and the 1951 U.S. District Court case in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Setting up the Education exhibit

Setting up for the exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Zachary Lassiter and Arielle Swopes

Zachary Lassiter, a Public Services student at Spencer Library
majoring in history, with Arielle Swopes. Click image to enlarge.

Statement from student assistant Arielle Swopes

In 2014 I started at KU as a Behavioral Neuroscience major, and began working as a student assistant in Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Working on the current exhibit, Education: The Mightiest Weapon, has given me even greater insight about how enduring and adaptable African Americans have been. For this exhibit I’ve had access to hundreds of pictures and been able to read letters, petitions, newspapers, and posters that all show the daily life and struggles of African Americans from the 1890s to the 1970s. From all of these materials it is easy to see the determination that these people had to always find a way to persevere.

Photograph of the Sumner High School Second Orchestra, 1918

Sumner High School Second Orchestra,
Kansas City, Kansas, 1918. Sumner High School Collection.
Call Number: RH MS-P 1137. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the first page of a letter to the Lawrence School Board, 1942 Photograph of the second page of a letter to the Lawrence School Board, 1942

A letter from the city’s African American community to the
Lawrence, Kansas, School Board opposing the Board’s
suggested plan to place all African American elementary students
in Lincoln School in North Lawrence, November 12, 1942.
USD 497 (Lawrence School District) Collection.
Call Number: RH MS 1255. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the Monroe School eighth grade class, 1932

Eighth grade graduating class of Monroe School, Topeka, Kansas, 1932.
Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family Collection. Call Number: RH MS-P 576.
Click image to enlarge.

Arielle Swopes
Spencer Research Library Student Assistant
African American Experience Collections

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator
African American Experience Collections

Louie Chester Walbridge Photograph Collection

March 8th, 2017

“I’m off Friday noon, destination Russell, Kansas…Direct all letters to Russell, Russell Co., Kansas, until you hear from me to the contrary”

Letter from Louie C. Walbridge, September 27, 1882

Louie C. Walbridge was born in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1859, the youngest of six children. In 1878, after finishing his education at the Riverview Military School in Poughkeepsie, he headed west to take a clerical job in St. Louis, Missouri. He left that job in the summer of 1879 to join his brother in Sioux City, Iowa, where together they worked for the government, surveying the Missouri River. Next, Louie went to Chicago and worked in a hardware store for a couple of years. Sometime after his 23rd birthday, he made the decision to move to Russell County, Kansas, and on October 24, 1882, Louie signed papers to form a partnership in a plot of land that would eventually grow to 3,000 acres and a herd of over 1,000 sheep. This would be the start of his life-long career as a sheep rancher and farmer.

Photograph of Louie C. Walbridge on porch of his home, 1884

Louie C. Walbridge on porch of his home,
Profile Ranch, Russell County, Kansas, 1884.
Walbridge Collection. Call Number: RH PH 21.
Click image to enlarge.

About two years later, Louis bought out his partner and proceeded in business alone. He named the property Profile Ranch. He wrote, “I have made this purchase basing all my calculations on the future prosperity of the country.” And just to remove all doubt as to who owned the property, he painted “WALBRIDGE” on the roof of his most visible barn.

Photograph of wool wagons on Profile Ranch, circa 1885

Wool wagons on Profile Ranch, circa 1885. Walbridge Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 21. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of sheep on Profile Ranch, circa 1885

Sheep on Profile Ranch, circa 1885. Walbridge Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 21. Click image to enlarge.

On January 21, 1892, Louie married Louise Rachel Castle (1861-1947). They had six children: Margaret (1893-1974), Louise (1895-1966), Caroline (1898-1989), Anne (1900-1971), Chester (1903-1984), and Henry (1905-1949).

Photograph of tive of the Walbridge children, undated

Five of the Walbridge children: Caroline, Margaret,
Louise, Anne, and Chester, undated (circa 1904).
Walbridge Collection. Call Number: RH PH 21.
Click image to enlarge.

One of Louie’s hobbies was photography. He owned his own equipment and set up a darkroom in his family’s home. He photographed his property and his herd, but his favorite subject was his family. What sets Louie’s family photographs apart from those of other amateur photographers of his time is the intimate and candid way in which he captured their images. Many of his photos show his children relaxed and smiling, often leaning on or touching one another, looking at each other and not at the camera. In one image, their faces, hands, and clothes are dirty, as though they had just come in from playing outside, and their attention is on a cat they are holding, seemingly unaware of the camera. It is as though Louie wanted to portray his family as they really were, and he did not try to get the “perfect” photo of “perfect” children. In this way his photographs are quite endearing.

Photograph of Louie C. Walbridge with Louise, Caroline, and Margaret, undated

Louie C. Walbridge with Louise, Caroline, and Margaret, undated (circa 1899).
Walbridge Collection. Call Number: RH PH 21. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Louise Walbridge with Margaret, Caroline, and Louise, undated

Louise Walbridge with her children Margaret, Caroline, and Louise, undated (circa 1899).
Walbridge Collection. Call Number: RH PH 21. Click image to enlarge.

Margaret, Caroline, and Louise Walbridge holding a cat, undated (circa 1900).
Walbridge Collection. Call Number: RH PH 21. Click image to enlarge.

The Walbridge family enjoyed many years of overall success in ranching, and later in farming, but the Depression hit Louie and Louise hard, and their business suffered greatly. Poor economic conditions were made worse by dust storms, drought, crop failures, and Louie’s declining health. He was eventually forced to sell the ranch, and Louie and Louise moved to town. Perhaps the words he wrote years earlier gave him comfort: “There is one prominent feature of the Walbridges that I hope will descend to the coming generations, i.e., enduring with good grace what cannot be helped.” On February 1, 1939, just two months after moving to town, Louie passed away at the age of eighty. Louise would follow him in death eight years later.

Sources

“Louie Walbridge, Renaissance Man,” Kansas State Agriculturist, March 1981.

Walbridge, Caroline K. Ranchorama and Louie C. Walbridge: An Illustrated Story of Profile Ranch and the Owner, 1859-1939. Russell, Kansas: The Russell Record, 1966. Call Number RH D787.

Walbridge, Caroline Knickerbacker. Gallant Lady 1861-1947. Topeka, Kansas: Clyde E. Gilbert, printer, 1968. Call Number RH D3896.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Exhibition Snapshot: Sumner High School, Kansas City, KS

February 27th, 2017

Spencer Research Library’s current exhibition, Education: The Mightiest Weapon,” highlights African American school experiences in the state of Kansas, focusing primarily on the period before 1955.  In the coming days we’ll feature a longer post on the exhibition, but today we share an image and a label to whet your appetite. “Education: The Mightiest Weapon” is on display in Spencer Library’s gallery space through May 18th, 2017.

Sumner High School, Kansas City, KS

Sumner is a child not of our own volition but rather an offspring of the race antipathy of a bygone period. It was a veritable blessing in disguise—a flower of which we may proudly say, “The bud had a bitter taste, but sweet indeed is the flower”

Photograph of Students in Chemistry Classroom, 1930s, Sumner High School, Kansas City, KS

Chemistry Classroom, 1930s, Sumner High School.  Sumner High School Collection. Call #: RH MS-P 1137.
Click image to enlarge.

In 1905, the Kansas State Legislature passed a law exempting Kansas City, Kansas from the state law prohibiting racially segregated public high schools. Reluctantly, the Governor of Kansas E. W. Hoch signed the bill, but persuaded the majority of Kansas City, Kansas voters to construct a new high school building for African Americans at no less than $40,000 and to be as well-equipped as the existing Kansas City, Kansas High School. Determined to overcome the inequities of racial segregation, the teachers, students and community members of Sumner High School strove to develop a tradition of academic excellence. They countered the local school board’s proposals for an emphasis on manual training courses by implementing a curriculum that emphasized college preparatory classes at Sumner.  By 1914, Sumner was a member of the prestigious North Central Association of Secondary Schools. Until the 1970s, the majority of African American students attending the University of Kansas were graduates of Sumner High School.

Sumner closed in 1978 under a federally mandated plan for racial integration of schools in Kansas City, Kansas.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator, African American Experience Collections

President Eisenhower: Abilene’s Greatest Son

February 20th, 2017

Abilene, Kansas is a small city of under 7,000 people, but it managed to produce one of the most influential U.S. presidents. The only president to come from Kansas, Dwight D. Eisenhower served 8 years in the office from 1953-1961. Here he worked ceaselessly to deescalate the cold war and poured his energies into working towards world peace. But before he became the 34th President of the United States, Eisenhower served as the commanding general of the U.S. troops in Europe during World War II. After Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945, then General Eisenhower returned to his hometown of Abilene. Here at the Spencer Research Library, as a part of our Kansas Collection, we have General Eisenhower’s Homecoming train brochure signed by the man himself and the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle issue reporting on his historic return. If you’re interested in learning more about our nation’s only president from Kansas, check out this great entry in the Kansas Historical Soceity’s Kansapedia, book a trip to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home, or come visit us here at Spencer Research Library!

Eisenhower homecoming train brochure and menu front cover, signed by Dwight D. Eishehower. Kansas Collection, call number: RH MS 1345 Box 9 Folder 35.
Eisenhower homecoming train brochure and menu front cover, signed by Dwight D. Eisehower.
Papers of Harry Darby, Kansas Collection, call number: RH MS 1345 Box 9 Folder 35. Click image to enlarge.

General Eisenhower homecoming train seating chart and menu, call number: RH MS 1345 Box 9 Folder 35.
General Eisenhower homecoming train seating chart and menu, Papers of Harry Darby, Kansas Collection,
call number: RH MS 1345 Box 9 Folder 35. Click image to enlarge.

"Abilene's Greatest Son Comes Home", Abilene Reflector-Chronicle front page, June 22, 1945, Spencer Research Library.

“Abilene’s Greatest Son Comes Home”, Abilene Reflector-Chronicle front page
from June 22, 1945. Kansas Collection, call number: RH H319. Click image to enlarge.

"Ike is at Home", Abilene Reflector-Chronicle front page from June 22, 1945. Kansas Collection, call number: RH H319.   Continuation of "Ike is at Home", Abilene Reflector-Chronicle page 6 from June 22, 1945. Kansas Collection, call number: RH H319.
Article discussing General Eisenhower’s arrival by train titled “Ike is at Home”,
Abilene Reflector-Chronicle front page and page 6 from June 22, 1945.
Kansas Collection, call number: RH H319. Click images to enlarge.

"Eisenhower Calls Friends to Realize Responsibility in United Effort for Peace", Abilene Reflector-Chronicle front page from June 22, 1945. Kansas Collection, call number: RH H319.

Article describing the speech given by General Eisenhower to Abilene residents titled “Eisenhower Calls Friends to Realize Responsibility in United Effort for Peace”, Abilene Reflector-Chronicle front page from June 22, 1945.
Kansas Collection, call number: RH H319. Click image to enlarge.

Mindy Babarskis
Reference Specialist
Public Services

Langston Hughes in Lawrence, Kansas

January 30th, 2017

In honor of Langston Hughes’s birthday on February 1, we remember his time in Lawrence:

Langston Hughes spent his early boyhood in Lawrence, Kansas. In a presentation at the University of Kansas in 1965 he recalled: “The first place I remember is Lawrence, right here. And the specific street is Alabama Street. And then we moved north, we moved to New York Street shortly thereafter. The first church I remember is the A.M.E. Church on the corner of Ninth, I guess it is, and New York. That is where I went to Sunday School, where I almost became converted, which I tell about in The Big Sea, my autobiography.”


Title page of The Big Sea, by Langston Hughes (first edition, 1940).
Hughes signed this copy for the University of Kansas. Call number RH C7422.
Click image to enlarge.

Hughes lived with his maternal grandmother, Mary Sampson Patterson Leary Langston, at 732 Alabama Street. The house does not exist today. His grandmother was the widow of one of the men killed with John Brown at Harpers Ferry (Lewis Sheridan Leary), and later married Hughes’s grandfather, the ardent abolitionist Charles Howard Langston.

Langston’s years in Lawrence with his grandmother were lonely and frugal. In 1909 he entered the second grade at Pinckney School, having started school in Topeka, KS, while living briefly with his mother. He was placed with other African American children in a separate room for his education. At various times between 1909 and 1915 Langston and his grandmother lived with friends James W. and Mary Reed at 731 New York Street. Hughes also attended New York School, and Central School, where he was reportedly a good student. Langston lived with the Reeds after his grandmother’s death in March 1915, and left Lawrence to join his mother in Illinois later in the year.

Photograph of Langston Hughes. Call number RH PH P2790.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

As he writes in The Big Sea:

“The ideas for my first novel had been in my head for a long time. I wanted to write about a typical Negro family in the Middle West, about people like those I had known in Kansas. But mine was not a typical Negro family. My grandmother never took in washing or worked in service or went much to church. She had lived in Oberlin and spoke perfect English, without a trace of dialect. She looked like an Indian. My mother was a newspaper woman and a stenographer then. My father lived in Mexico City. My granduncle had been a congressman. And there were heroic memories of John Brown’s raid and the underground railroad in the family storehouse. But I thought maybe I had been a typical Negro boy. I grew up with the other Negro children of Lawrence, sons and daughters of family friends. I had an uncle of sorts who ran a barber shop in Kansas City. And later I had a stepfather who was a wanderer. We were poor – but different. For purposes of the novel, however, I created around myself what seemed to me a family more typical of Negro life in Kansas than my own had been. I gave myself aunts that I didn’t have, modeled after other children’s aunts whom I had known. But I put in a real cyclone that had blown my grandmother’s front porch away.”

Sheryl Williams
Curator, Kansas Collection

Adapted from the Spencer Research Library exhibit, Langston Hughes: A Voice for All People.