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

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

Throwback Thursday: Wilt Chamberlain Edition

December 15th, 2016

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 33,500 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of Wilt Chamberlain and John Traylor, December 1955

KU athletes Wilt Chamberlain and John Traylor, December 1955.
Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG LJW 66/13 Chamberlain, Wilt: Athletic Department: Basketball:
Players (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

This photograph appeared in the Lawrence Journal-World on Monday, December 19, 1955. The caption read as follows:

Two Reasons for the Party’s Success

Saturday afternoon’s Christmas party for about 30 youngsters at the Leavenworth Guardian Angel Home, a Catholic-operated orphan institution, was a raging success primarily because of the appearance of seven-foot Wilt Chamberlain, K. U. freshman basketball star, and John Traylor, 155-pound sophomore halfback for the 1955 Jayhawker football team. Basil Green, Lawrence contractor, planned the party and presented the kiddies with gifts, as well as arranging for the Kansas athletes to be on hand to present the group with some athletic gear. Left to right here are six-year-old Eddie Penrice, Chamberlain, Traylor, and four-year-old Paul Wiley. The youngsters were quick to befriend the two distinguished visitors and soon were bombarding them with all sorts of questions.

According to Lyanne Candy Ruff’s dissertation, Thrown on the Cold Charity of the World: Kansas Cares for Its Orphans, 1859-1919, the Guardian Angel Home was the oldest Catholic orphanage for African American children west of the Mississippi River (pp. 189-208).

You can see additional pictures of Wilt Chamberlain and John Traylor at the Guardian Angel Home Christmas party via Spencer’s online collection of University Archives photographs.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Throwback Thursday: Memorial March Edition

December 1st, 2016

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 31,400 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

This week’s photograph highlights a student protest that took place at KU on this date in 1972.

Photograph of a KU student protest, December 1, 1972

Students carrying a sign reading “injury to one, an inj[ury] to all” during a protest,
December 1, 1972. Dyche (left) and Spooner (right) halls can be seen in the background.
Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG LJW 71/18 1972: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

An article about the Friday protest appeared in the University Daily Kansan the following Monday, December 4th. (Only a portion is included here.)

Two University of Kansas black student leaders urged blacks at a rally Friday to stand together against “white oppression and racism.”

Mickey Dean, Sandersville, Ga., junior and president of the Black Student Union (BSU), and Ron Washington, acting assistant director of the Supportive Educational Services (SES), spoke to the predominantly black crowd of 300 in front of Strong Hall.

The rally, a memorial for two black students [Denver Smith and Leonard Brown] killed at Southern University [in Baton Rouge, Louisiana] Nov. 17 [sic], followed a march from the Kansas Union. The rally and the march were sponsored by the BSU…

The rally, which was called at the request of black student groups at Southern U., would let people of Lawrence know what blacks are thinking, Dean said.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

The Quandary of Young Francis Snow

January 20th, 2016

On Sunday, PBS aired the first of a six-part miniseries called Mercy Street, set at a Union hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, during the Civil War. This is the first of two blog posts that will explore a Spencer connection to that program. Both have been guest written by Spencer researcher Charles Joyce. Mr. Joyce is a labor attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and also a long-time collector and dealer of Civil War photography.

Any connection between the University of Kansas and the PBS series Mercy Street would probably be considered unlikely at best. However, a fascinating historical link does exist in the form of Francis Huntington Snow (1840-1908), who, after the Civil War, became a prominent scientist and served as KU’s fifth chancellor.

Photograph of Francis Snow, undated

An undated photograph of Francis Snow taken in Lawrence.
Snow arrived at KU in 1866; he taught mathematics and
natural sciences and was one of the school’s first three faculty members.
Snow served as KU’s chancellor from 1890 to 1901.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 2/6 Undated Prints:
Chancellors: Francis Snow (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

In July 1863, Snow was a young Massachusetts divinity student facing a knotty ethical dilemma. The son of ardent abolitionists, Snow shared in his parents’ zeal to see the war transform into a crusade for the emancipation of four million enslaved African Americans. However, he believed his religious conviction and pacifist views prohibited him from actually taking up arms for the cause. Snow was drafted on July 18, 1863, and he recorded his thoughts on the matter in his diary, held at Spencer Research Library.

Could I be sure of a place where no fighting would be required, no amount of danger would deter me from going…[as] I might be of some service to the wounded on the battlefield or in the hospital. But a drafted man has no choice of position, and I, too, should be liable to be called to musket duty. So I can’t go.

Snow weighed his options for opting out of service, as allowed by the draft law. Believing that “[g]etting a substitute would be worse in my opinion than going myself,” Snow decided to pay the commutation fee of $300.

One year later, as soon as he finished his final exams at the Andover Theological Seminary, Snow hit upon a way to serve the Union cause and stay true to his moral precepts. He volunteered as a delegate with the U.S. Christian Commission, established by the YMCA, then just ten years old. The organization’s purpose was to promote the spiritual and physical welfare of Union soldiers and sailors. Francis Snow was posted at Alexandria, Virginia, for six weeks (August-September 1864) and tasked with caring for sick and wounded men at several of the military hospitals there. (He later served another five weeks with the Commission, March-May 1865.)

Image of Francis Snow's journal, "Duties of Delegates," August 1-September 14, 1864

“Duties of Delegates” of the U.S. Christian Commission. Francis Snow journal, August 1-September 14, 1864.
University Archives. Call Number: RG 2/6/6. Click image to enlarge.

Image of Francis Snow's journal, "Delegates to the Hospitals," August 1-September 14, 1864

Instructions for Commission delegates serving in hospitals,
from Francis Snow’s 1864 journal. Other Commission delegates
served with regiments in camps and on battlefields.
University Archives. Call Number: RG 2/6/6. Click image to enlarge.

Snow was unpaid, except for expenses, and he was required to keep a journal detailing his service on behalf of the Commission. In this, he recorded that during his stay in Alexandria, he visited with over 2700 hundred wounded soldiers, wrote 128 letters for them, read scripture, sang hymns, and led them in prayer many hundred times more.

Image of Francis Snow journal, cover, March 25-May 1, 1865

The cover of one of Francis Snow’s two Commission journals.
Included is Snow’s account of being at Appomattox Court House,
Virginia, on April 9, 1865, when General Lee surrendered to General Grant.
University Archives. Call Number: RG 2/6/6. Click image to enlarge.

Image of a travel pass included in Francis Snow's journal, 1864

A travel pass glued in to Francis Snow’s 1864 journal, instructing
“guards [to] pass F. H. Snow to and from the Hospital at will until further orders.”
University Archives. Call Number: RG 2/6/6. Click image to enlarge.

Image of a list of soldiers in Francis Snow's journal, 1864

Snow’s 1864 journal included a ten-page list of soldiers with whom he interacted.
Here he noted information about each man, especially the nature of his injury and his religious affiliation.
Many of the men listed on this page were African American soldiers; their regiment was listed as “USCT,”
or U.S. Colored Troops. University Archives. Call Number: RG 2/6/6. Click image to enlarge.

One of Snow’s assignments in Alexandria took him to L’Ouverture Hospital, specially constructed to care for sick and wounded African American soldiers, who were kept segregated from their white comrades. Here he befriended the Hospital’s Chaplain, the Reverend Chauncey Leonard, who signed his journal on a page he apparently maintained for “autographs.”

Image of the first page of Francis Snow's letter to his sister, 1864

Image of the second page of Francis Snow's letter to his sister, 1864 Image of the third page of Francis Snow's letter to his sister, 1864 

Image of the fourth page of Francis Snow's letter to his sister, 1864

A letter from Francis Snow to his sister describing
his hospital experiences in Alexandria, August 8, 1864.
“There are now only 9 delegates here to thus attend to the 5000 sufferers,”
he wrote, “and I can assure you we find our time fully occupied.
O Mattie you can form no conception of the amount and intensity
of the suffering among these poor fellows.”
University Archives. Call Number: RG 2/6/6. Click image to enlarge.

Snow’s interest in and empathy with the black population of Alexandria, which had swelled during the war years, was also manifest in other, less official duties, like teaching a Sunday School class of black children. Indeed, when his tour with the Commission ended in early September, Snow “found it hard to get away” from those men, women, and children. He gave the Reverend Leonard $20 to “lay out for the boys” at L’Ouverture.

Photograph of African American soldiers from L'Overture Hospital

African American soldiers from L’Ouverture Hospital, circa 1864.
Photograph in the private collection of Charles Joyce; used with permission.
Click image to enlarge.

Sometime thereafter, probably toward the end of 1864, an unknown artist took a photograph of Leonard with a group of black soldiers who were convalescing from war wounds and sickness at L’Ouverture. Someone sent a copy of the image to Francis Snow; he carefully wrote down each man’s name in the margins of the image and kept it all of his life. The photograph was found in a box in Snow’s personal library some 145 years later, and I purchased it in an online auction. More research on the soldiers in the photograph led to the holdings of the Spencer Library, including Snow’s original diary and Christian Commission journals. More on that in the next entry…

Charles Joyce
Guest Blogger and Spencer Researcher
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania