Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

African American Migration from Kansas to California

February 12th, 2019

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) founded the annual February celebration of Black History in 1926 and has identified Black Migrations as the theme for 2019. To demonstrate African American migration in the United States, I chose the Anthony Scott family papers from Spencer’s African American Experience Collections. The papers tell the story of the migration experiences of two families who lived in or came to Kansas.

Anthony Scott was born in Kentucky in 1846. He and his wife Anna had five children: James, Thomas, Elder, Mary, and Alvin. In 1880, Anthony and Anna moved their family from Kentucky to Topeka, Kansas.

Photograph of Anthony and Anna Scott, 1895

Anthony and Anna Scott in Topeka, 1895. Anthony Scott Family Papers.
Call Number: RH MS 676. Click image to enlarge.

Image of bill of sale for a home in Topeka purchased by Anthony and Anna Scott, 1901

A bill of sale for a home on Taylor Street in Topeka purchased by Anthony and Anna Scott, 1901.
Anthony Scott Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS 676. Click image to enlarge.

James, the eldest son of the Scott family, staked out land and established a homestead in the Cherokee Outlet (now part of Oklahoma) in 1890. However, shortly after the turn of the century James returned to Topeka, where he met Lenetta Brasfield. They married on August 18, 1903. The couple had seven children: James Jr., Luther, Raymond, George, Charles, Bessie, and Thelma. Around the same time, Thomas Scott, James’s brother, moved to Chicago.

Photograph of James Scott's ranch in Oklahoma, circa 1895

James Scott’s ranch in Oklahoma, circa 1895. Anthony Scott Family Papers.
Call Number: RH MS 676. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Lenetta Scott with sons George and Luther Scott outside the family's home in Topeka, Kansas, 1915

Lenetta Scott with sons George and Luther outside the family’s home in Topeka, 1915.
Anthony Scott Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS 676. Click image to enlarge.

In 1919, James Scott purchased an insurance policy for a Chandler touring car. The Scotts used this car on their thirteen-day journey from Topeka to Los Angeles later that same year.

Image of James Scott's insurance policy for a Chandler touring car, 1919

James Scott’s insurance policy for the Chandler touring car, 1919.
Anthony Scott Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS 676. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the James H. Scott family, 1919

The James H. Scott family, 1919. Front row, left to right: Lenetta Scott, Bessie Scott,
Amanda Adkins, Raymond Scott, George Scott, Luther Scott, Thelma Scott,
James Scott Jr., Erma Scott, and James H. Scott; people in the car unknown.
Anthony Scott Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS 676. Click image to enlarge.

Image of James Scott's California registration for a 1920 Chandler touring car, 1924

James Scott’s California registration for a 1920 Chandler touring car, 1924.
Anthony Scott Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS 676. Click image to enlarge.

The James Scott family settled in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles upon their arrival in 1919 and lived at the same address until 1962.

Photograph of the The Scott family home in Los Angeles, 1950

The Scott family home in Los Angeles, 1950. Anthony Scott Family Papers.
Call Number: RH MS 676. Click image to enlarge.

Thelma Scott – the youngest daughter of James and Lenetta Scott – met her husband, Grant D. Venerable, in Los Angeles. Mr. Venerable (pictured with the family below) was born in Jackson, Missouri, in 1905. He became the first African American to graduate from the California Institute of Technology in 1932. Grant D. Venerable’s older sister Neosho once lived in Lawrence; she graduated from the University of Kansas in 1914.

Photograph of the James H. Scott family, 1946

The James H. Scott family dinner session of the Kansas Club in the Venerable home, 1946.
Front row, left to right: Elizabeth (Pettus) Moore, James Scott, and Lenetta Scott.
Back row, left to right: Thomas Moore, Erma (Scott) Moore, Mildred Moore,
Thomas Moore Jr., unknown, Thelma (Scott) Venerable, and Grant Venerable.
Anthony Scott Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS 676. Click image to enlarge.

Mr. and Mrs. Venerable had three children: Delbert (Grant D. Venerable II), Lynda, and Lloyd.

Photograph of Thelma (Scott) Venerable and Delbert Venerable in California, 1944

Thelma (Scott) Venerable and Delbert Venerable in California, 1944.
Anthony Scott Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS 676. Click image to enlarge.

Delbert Venerable, son of Grant D. Venerable and great-grandson of Anthony Scott, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1965. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1970. He was awarded the United States Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship for his research into radiation biology. He taught chemistry in both high schools and universities in the 1970s and went on to work in Silicon Valley as a systems scientist in the 1980s. From 1992 to 1999 he was the CEO of Venteck Software Inc.

Dr. Venerable became a part of the development of a new field of study combining science, history, and ethnic studies. He continued in the 1990s to maintain positions of administration or professorship at various universities. His publications have included books, scientific paintings, academic articles, and editorials.

The Scott and Venerable families illustrate the importance of migration as a major theme in the African American historical experience.

Elaine Kelley
African American Experience Student Assistant

World War II: The African American Experience

February 27th, 2018

The tradition of celebrating African American history in February was established in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.  The 2018 theme of Black History Month is “African Americans  in Times of War,” and this week we feature two brief excerpts from an oral history interview with WWII veteran William Tarlton. The interview comes from Spencer Research Library’s World War II: The African American Experience oral history interview collection.

Photo logo for World War II: The African American Experience, featuring pictures of Africa American soldiers.

More than one and a half million African Americans served in the United States military forces during World War II. They fought in the Pacific, Mediterranean, and European war zones, including the Battle of the Bulge and the D-Day invasion. These African American service men and women constituted the largest number enlisted in the Army and Navy, and the first to serve in the Marine Corp after 1798. World War II: The African American Experience begins to document the experiences of African American World War II veterans through audio recorded interviews. These oral histories are part of the collecting program established by the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s Kansas Collection in 1986 to enhance the region’s permanent historical record of the African American experience. The collection includes donated materials that provide information about families, churches, organizations and businesses, especially during the 20th century.  The World War II oral history project is sponsored in part by the Sandra Gautt KU Endowment Fund, which Professor Emerita Gautt established to honor her father, Sgt. Thaddeus A. Whayne, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen unit.

William Tarlton: Two Oral History Excerpts

Photo of William Tarlton in uniform

Photograph of William Tarlton from a Squadron F 463rd
Army Air Force photo collage, 1947. Tarlton served with Squadron F
after re-enlisting, following his wartime service with the 371st Infantry.
African American World War II Oral Histories Collection.
Call Number: RH MS-P 1439, Box 1, Folder 3. Click image to enlarge.

A life-long resident of Topeka, Kansas, William Tarlton served in the United States Army’s 92nd Division, 371st Infantry. Wounded twice during the Italian campaign, he was awarded the Bronze Star medal for “his outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy.” In the passage below, excerpted from his oral history interview with Deborah Dandridge, Field Archivist and Curator for the African American Experience Collections, Tarlton recounts the experience of being shelled.

DANDRIDGE: So when you were training in combat, what sort of things do you remember you had to learn how to do?
TARLTON: Keep your head down. (chuckles) Dig a fox hole. Get in that fox hole or stay on the ground. Yeah.
DANDRIDGE: Did you ever have to do that?
TARLTON: I certainly did. Yes I did. The other one thing that I remember vividly is the fact that I was in, it was a bridge that we went across, that goes across a little creek. And we — me and another guy, one was on one side of the bridge and one was on the other side, I was right there, and three of the artillery shells that fell hit that bridge and they never went off and fell right off into the water. I remember they hit. And see that was, see that German eighty-eight millimeter gun was — you’d hear a “Boo” and next thing it’s on you. You know? Yeah, those are the things that— And that was about, that was one of the, some of the scariest things, especially at night. I mean it’s all dark over there and then — Oh, the other thing that I remember, I was, when I got shrapnel wounds in my arm and back we was getting close to the end of the war and we were up there in a British Signal Corps outfit and we went up in there and they shelled that outfit. And then we were going to get some breakfast that morning. Way off in the field and somehow or other they zeroed in on that thing and you — it just sounded like a pile of lumber falling down.
DANDRIDGE: So you didn’t get your breakfast?
TARLTON: We got it, eventually, after it got all clear. Those British soldiers are resilient people, they’re crazy some of ‘em.
DANDRIDGE: So did you ever, so did you eat with ‘em? Did you eat with the British?
TARLTON: (overlapping) Oh yeah, yeah we ate — I did. And, then me and several of us that was on patrol and we ate down there. Yeah, we did that. And they were very nice. And they were — So one of the things that I can remember that they were, of course I’m young, but the British, they always had some Scotch Whiskey. (chuckles)
DANDRIDGE: And so you all were sharing, is that what you’d say?
TARLTON: They shared a little bit with us.
(William Tarlton Oral History Interview, excerpt from  37:42-40:36)

Over the course of his interview, William Tarlton also discusses segregation in Topeka prior to his service, segregation in the armed forces, and his memories of being at Fort Francis E. Warren, Wyoming when the U.S. military’s new policy of racial integration was implemented after the war.  He briefly addresses these last two subjects in our second excerpt:

TARLTON: Well, we were still—We were still in segregated army when I went, in 19— when we got back to the States, we were still segregated. And then we went to Cheyenne, Wyoming and that was where — I can’t remember. I got that on discharge, can’t remember — But, anyway, that was Fort Warren, and it was all, it was segregated out there. They had the white troops over on one side and we was on, we was down on Randall Avenue in nice buildings, nice quarters. And I went to the motor pool and they gave me quarters over there where I started work on those cars, I was along with another couple of soldiers.
DANDRIDGE: Were they white or black?
TARLTON: Oh, two of us—yeah,  was white. We— We started getting along real good together because we was in the different area and we all —
DANDRIDGE: So you all socialized together?
TARLTON: Yeah, socialized together and—
DANDRIDGE: Did you ever go out in town?
TARLTON: Not together. That was one of the things that we didn’t do until— See in 1947, when they desegregated the Army, that was 1947 and I was out there when that happened.
DANDRIDGE: What was that like?
TARLTON: Well it was— The only thing, this old white boy come up to me and says—put your clothes down on the side, says “Guess I’m going to bunk beside you.” I said, “Okay.” (chuckles)
(William Tarlton Oral History Interview, excerpt from 58:40-1:00:34)

This interview, recorded on August 12, 2010,  is even more striking when you hear William Tarlton’s voice as he recounts his experiences. We encourage you to listen to the entire recording online here, where you will also find a full transcript of the interview.

Once you have explored the World War II: The African American Experience Oral History collection, consider visiting some of the other online resources related to Spencer Research Library’s African American Experience Collections, including the online version of the 2017 exhibition Education: The Mightiest Weapon and the Leon Hughes Photographs digital collection.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator, African American Experience Collections
Adapted from her text for World War II: The African American Experience

Kansas Leader and Innovator: Delano Lewis

January 16th, 2018

One of my first projects in the African American Experience Collections was to help the Field Archivist/Curator, Deborah Dandridge, put together an exhibit titled Education: The Mightiest Weapon. Many of the items that we used came from the Sumner High School Collection, and it didn’t take long for me to notice how accomplished the graduates of that school were. As coincidence would have it, one of my relatives, Delano Lewis, is a Sumner High graduate. Like many of Sumner’s graduates, he went on to accomplish great things like working as an attorney in the U.S. Justice Department, becoming Associate Director for the Peace Corps in Nigeria and Uganda, and being appointed as the United States Ambassador to South Africa.

Delano Eugene Lewis was born in November of 1938 in Arkansas City, Kansas. His family later moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he attended Sumner High School, graduating in 1956.

Photograph of Delano Lewis, Drum Major, Sumner High School, 1956

Photograph in the 1956 Sumnerian yearbook showing
Delano Lewis (center) as a Drum Major at Sumner High School.
Call Number: RH Ser D1286. Click image to enlarge.

Sumnerian yearbook photograph of Delano Lewis,
President of the Junior Class of
Sumner High School, 1955.
Call Number: RH Ser D1286. Click image to enlarge.

Lewis graduated from the University of Kansas in 1960 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History. In 1963, he received his Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Washburn University School of Law, after which he went to Washington, D.C., to work as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1967 Lewis served as the Peace Corps’ Country Director in Uganda. After leaving Uganda, he worked as a Legal Assistant for Senator Edward Brooke (R-Mass.), the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction.

Photograph of Delano Lewis with Senator Edward Brooke and Vice President Walter Mondale, undated

Delano Lewis (center) with Senator Edward Brooke (left) and
Vice President Walter Mondale (right), undated photograph.
Delano Lewis Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 1075.
Click image to enlarge.

While he held esteemed positions in service of the U.S. government, Lewis also had an impressive corporate career. He served as the Public Affairs Manager for the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company in 1973, and in 1990 he became the CEO. In 1993, Lewis was the first African American become the President and CEO of National Public Radio. Then from 1999 to 2001, Lewis was appointed to be the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa.

Photograph of Delano Lewis with Al Gore, 1997

Delano Lewis (center) with Vice President Al Gore (left), 1997.
Delano Lewis Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 1075. Click image to enlarge.

Initially proposed and funded by Michael Shinn (B.S., Aerospace Engineering, 1966), the KU Black Alumni’s African American Leaders and Innovators project recognized Mr. Lewis in 2007.

Arielle Swopes
Spencer Research Library Student Assistant
African American Experience Collections

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator
African American Experience Collections

African American Photograph Album: How to Process?

July 17th, 2017

In order to make manuscript collections available to researchers, we have to describe what we have so they know whether it is of interest or not. Typically archival description provides information about what is in the collection itself, as well as some contextual information to aid researchers in understanding more about why materials may be in the collection—a biographical note or administrative history of the creator of the collection, for example, or information about how Spencer acquired the collection. This additional information may come from the collection itself—the creator handily leaves a copy of their resume in their files, or the organization has created annual reports that provide some historical information about them. It can also come from external sources, such as websites and materials the creator and/or donor provided the curator when transferring the collection to Spencer, including notes the curator took when discussing the collection with the donor.

Sometimes, particularly with photographic collections that have little to no textual material donated with them, processing staff have very little to go on when creating a finding aid to help researchers. Take, for example, a collection of cabinet cards and tintypes that had been assembled into a photograph album. These photographic images are beautiful, posed portraits of African Americans in late 19th-century eastern Kansas—but we have very little external information about these images. We’re not even sure how we acquired this collection, or the story behind the creation of the photograph album. If any portrait is identified with a name, it’s hidden on the back, and we haven’t taken the album page package apart, even if the album overall was disbound due to its severe deterioration.

Photograph of a family group

Family group, circa 1890s? African American Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 531. Click image to enlarge.

In this kind of situation, we provide what information we can. We can describe simply at the collection-level, or we can attempt to describe at the file or individual item level, but those descriptions will necessarily be generic: “Tintype of a soldier in a Civil War-era uniform.”

Tintype of a soldier in Civil War-era uniform

Tintype of a soldier in a Civil War-era
uniform, circa 1880-1900.
African American Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 531. Click image to enlarge

We can also provide rough date estimates for when the portraits were made, based upon the clothing worn by the sitters and upon the photographic processes used.

Photograph of an unknown woman

This woman’s overskirt—draped at the back of her dress
helping to create a bustle—tightly-fitted sleeves with cuffs,
and fitted basque-type bodice all indicate her photograph
was probably taken around the mid-1880s. African American Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 531. Click image to enlarge.

Photographers’ names, often provided on the bottom of cabinet cards and cartes de visite—think about watermarks on professionally-made digital photographs in the 21st century—also provide clues about where and when a collection is from. The photographers found in this collection mostly appear to come from Topeka, Kansas, with some also from Atchison, Lawrence, and perhaps other towns in the eastern part of the state.

Photograph of an unknown woman

The text under the image indicates it was taken by F. F. Mettner,
photographer of Lawrence, Kansas. Also notice the girl’s giant
leg o’mutton sleeves; this style was quite popular in the mid-1890s.
African American Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH 531. Click image to enlarge.

There are many decisions that go into processing a collection like this: Do we take apart the individual album pages to see if we can find more identifying information? Do we leave as is because this was how the images were intended to be seen (and who knows if anybody wrote anything on the back anyway)? Do we describe at a detailed level when we cannot provide names, or are we content with providing a simple collection-level description and hope that researchers are able to realize there may be a treasure trove from that collective description?

Photograph of an unknown gentleman

Who is this gentleman? If we knew his name,
what other information could it provide?
African American Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 531. Click image to enlarge.

No matter what we choose to do, archival description cannot capture the beauty of the women’s and children’s dresses and men’s suits—the sitters no doubt wearing their Sunday finest—the personalities that peek through even these stiffly posed studio portraits, the stories that may be hiding in the pictures themselves.

Photograph of an unknown woman

Portrait of an unknown woman, circa 1880-1900.
Marcella is especially fond of this photograph.
African American Photograph Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 531. Click image to enlarge.

If you have any information about any of these images, or others in the collection, we would be happy to add that information to the finding aid. To request to use the collection, contact Public Services staff at ksrlref@ku.edu. To provide more information about the collection, please also contact our African American Experience field archivist, Deborah Dandridge, at ddandrid@ku.edu.

Marcella Huggard
Manuscript Processing Coordinator

New Finding Aids Available: Part II

April 4th, 2017

Finding aids are documents created by a repository’s staff members as a point of access for an archival or manuscript collection. To understand more about how finding aids helps researchers navigate collections of manuscripts, organizational records, personal papers, letters, diaries, and photographs, check out our Finding Aids 101 blog post. Here’s a list of some of Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s newest finding aids, so see which collections interest you!

A photograph of members belonging to the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at a banquet from the Dorothy McField collection of sorority and fraternity papers. African American Experience Collection, Spencer Research Library.

A photograph of members belonging to the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at a banquet
from the Dorothy McField collection of sorority and fraternity papers.
African American Experience Collection. Call number: RH MS P944.3. Click image to enlarge.

The first page of a listing of titles for Éigse Eireann ["Poetry Ireland"] from the Catholic Bulletin collection. Special Collections.

The first page of a listing of titles for Éigse Eireann [“Poetry Ireland”]
from the Catholic Bulletin collection. Special Collections.
Call number: MS 329 Box 2 Folder 45. Click image to enlarge.

A photograph of two cowboys on horseback from the Wallace, Kansas photographs collection. Kansas Collection.

A photograph of two cowboys on horseback from the Wallace, Kansas photographs collection.
Kansas Collection. Call number: RH PH 60 Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

The title page from Eugène Farcot’s Literary Manuscript Un Voyage Aérien; Dans Cinquante Ans. Special Collections.

The title page from Eugène Farcot’s Literary Manuscript Un Voyage Aérien; Dans Cinquante Ans.
Special Collections. Call number: MS K32. Click image to enlarge.

May 7th and 8th from the five year Diary of Maude Egbert, note her entry on May 8, 1945 or Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day). Kansas Collection.

May 7th and 8th from the five year Diary of Maude Egbert, note her entry on May 8, 1945
or Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day). Kansas Collection.
Call number: RH MS B77. Click image to enlarge.

Other new finding aids:

Mindy Babarskis
Reference Specialist
Public Services