Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

North Gallery Highlight: Sumner High School

August 26th, 2020

We are periodically sharing some of the materials that are featured in Spencer Research Library’s North Gallery permanent exhibit. We hope you’ll be able to visit the library and explore the full exhibit in person! This week’s post highlights materials documenting the history of Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas. The Sumner collection is part of the African American Experience Collections within the Kansas Collection.

Photograph of the exterior of the Sumner High School building, 1905–1940
The “old” Sumner High School building at 9th and Washington Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas, 1905-1940. This image appeared in the 1922 Sumnerian yearbook. Call Number: RH Ser D1286 1922. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of the exterior of the Sumner High School building, 1940-1978
The “new” Sumner High School building at 8th and Oakland Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas, 1940-1978. Sumner High School Records. Call Number: RH MS-P 1137, Box 1. Click image to enlarge.

Established in 1905 in response to the threat of racial violence and a decades long effort to exclude African Americans from the city’s high school, Sumner High School was created by exempting Kansas City, Kansas, from the state law prohibiting racially segregated high schools. However, the local African American community resisted further efforts to further diminish their children’s opportunities to achieve academic excellence. Their relentless push for the school’s curriculum to emphasize college preparation earned Sumner High School’s membership in the prestigious North Central Association of Secondary Schools by 1914. Under a federally mandated plan for racial integration, Sumner closed in 1978.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 national convention of the Sumner High School Alumni Association of Kansas City, Kansas, has been postponed until next year. In anticipation of the convention – and in honor of the new school year – here are a few highlights from the Sumner High School Alumni Association of Kansas City, Kansas, Collection, established in 1986. Additional donations of materials are welcomed.

Photograph of Sumner High School faculty, 1919
Sumner High School faculty, 1919. Before the late 1950s, Sumner was the only high school in Kansas comprised of an African American faculty and the only high school in Kansas that permitted African Americans to serve as teachers. Sumner High School Records. Call Number: RH MS-P 1137, Box 2. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of the Sumner High School orchestra, 1918
The Sumner High School orchestra, 1918. Sumner High School Records. Call Number: RH MS-P 1137, Box 1. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of a Sumner High School chemistry class, 1930s
A chemistry class at Sumner High School, 1930s. Sumner High School Records. Call Number: RH MS-P 1137, Box 2. Click image to enlarge.

The film clips below show various aspects of Sumner High School. The first features scenes from a football game in 1931. The second clip, from the 1940s, introduces viewers to the new building, the principal, and staff members; it also shows students arriving for school. There’s no need to turn up the volume on your computer or phone; neither clip has any sound.


See Spencer’s online exhibit “Education: The Mightiest Weapon” to learn more about the active role African Americans in Kansas played in our nation’s past struggle with laws and practices of racial segregation in public schools.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist/Curator, African American Experience Collections
Kansas Collection

Celebrate National Ice Cream Month!

July 23rd, 2020

I love ice cream. I’ve very rarely screamed for it, but I may occasionally feel the urge! There are many flavors I like, including matcha and mint chocolate chip, though I feel there is something special about a good vanilla or my absolute favorite…homemade peach ice cream. Ice cream flavors are also a great thing to disagree about. You can have a very satisfying argument about which flavor is best (or at least rank them) knowing that it doesn’t really matter. It is a treat, it is satisfying, it is not particularly healthy, and it has a special quality of nostalgia for me.

Photograph of Snyder’s Ice Cream Co. (Wichita, Kansas) building exterior with ice cream trucks, circa 1920
Snyder’s Ice Cream Co. in Wichita, Kansas, circa 1920. Artificial Kansas-Based Photographs Collection. Call Number: RH PH 535, Box 11, Folder 19. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of Brown's Taylor Maid Ice Cream Shop, circa 1950-1970
Brown’s Taylor Maid Ice Cream Shop in Coffeyville, Kansas, circa 1950-1970. Patterson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 476, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

I remember getting together with family on the Fourth of July, playing all day, eating too many hot dogs/burgers/potluck/picnic food of all sorts, then finding the room to try three or four different flavors of homemade ice cream while sitting back and watching the fireworks. The sound of the churns were a persistent whine accompanying the conversation and bangs going on through the day.

No doubt such shared smiles and remembrances led to the naming of July as National Ice Cream Month.

Photograph of William Joe Woods at Franklin Ice Cream Co. in Tonganoxie, Kansas, circa 1940
William Joe Woods at Franklin Ice Cream Co. in Tonganoxie, Kansas, circa 1940. Woods Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P P660, Box 1, Folder 6. Click image to enlarge.

Ice cream can be found in our collections as well. I mean…not literally. That would be a nightmare for archival control. Instead there are pictures of people working on the apparatus of ice cream making, gathering socially around ice cream, or even making a buck going back quite a while!

Photograph of a man with a violin and ice cream sign in Anthony, Kansas, circa 1880-1900
Man with a violin and ice cream sign in Anthony, Kansas, circa 1880-1900. Leonard Hollmann Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH 536, Box 54, Folder 3. Click image to enlarge.

So when the urge for ice cream strikes, indulge, at least a little.

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

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

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