Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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

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