Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

“Dear Mr. Scott”

April 13th, 2021

This week we’re honoring the one-hundredth birthday of Charles Sheldon Scott, a native of Topeka, Kansas, and a prominent lawyer who focused on civil rights. The most famous case he argued was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. Scott, then only thirty-three years old, was one of the attorneys arguing for the plaintiffs. In this landmark case, argued before the United States Supreme Court, the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The case became a foundation of the civil rights movement and set the precedent that the doctrine of “separate-but-equal” in education, and other such services, was discriminatory and not equal at all.

A drawing on the back of Jerlita’s letter to Charles S. Scott shows two girls jumping rope.
A drawing on the back of Jerlita’s letter to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984. Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145, Box 8, Folder 38. Click image to enlarge.

In May 1984, thirty years after Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Charles Scott visited McCarter Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas. He spoke to the second- and third-grade classes about the case. These letters illustrate the importance of passing on the significance of that decision to future generations. What follows are a few of the thank you letters he received from the students. Private information has been redacted.

Charles S. Scott in an undated photograph
Charles S. Scott in an undated photograph. Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 1145, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

Charles Scott was born in Topeka, Kansas, on April 15, 1921. His father was attorney Elisha Scott, who argued several prominent civil rights cases throughout his career. Charles attended Topeka public schools and graduated from Topeka High School. During World War II, he served with the 2nd Cavalry Division and the Red Ball Express Transportation Unit of the United States Army. After his war service, he returned to Kansas and earned his Bachelor of Law degree in 1948, and then later his Juris Doctorate in 1970, both from Washburn University in Topeka. Charles joined his brother, John, in their father’s law firm Scott, Scott, Scott, and Jackson. During his law career, Charles Scott worked for the integration of schools in Johnson County, Kansas, and equal access to theaters, restaurants, and pools in Topeka. Throughout his law career Scott volunteered his legal services to the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee, and in this work he traveled to Mississippi to assist the civil rights workers. He provided legal services to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He served as a staff attorney and hearing examiner for the Kansas Civil Rights Commission. In addition to his law practice, Charles was a part-time instructor for the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. He was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and served as chair of the Topeka Branch’s Legal Redress Committee. Charles was married to Louise Crawford, and together they had two children. Charles died on March 3, 1989.

A letter from Justin to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984
A letter from student Justin to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984. Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145, Box 8, Folder 38. Click image to enlarge.
A letter from Erin to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984
A letter from second-grader Erin to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984. Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145, Box 8, Folder 38. Click image to enlarge.
A letter from Jennifer W. to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984
A letter from third-grader Jennifer W. to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984. Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145, Box 8, Folder 38. Click image to enlarge.
A letter from Melissa, Blake, and Jennifer to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984
A letter from students Melissa, Blake, and Jennifer to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984. Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145, Box 8, Folder 38. Click image to enlarge.
A letter from Rachel to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984
A letter from third-grader Rachel to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984. Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145, Box 8, Folder 38. Click image to enlarge.
A letter from Roberta to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984
A letter from second-grader Roberta to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984. Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145, Box 8, Folder 38. Click image to enlarge.
A drawing on the back of a letter from Jennifer D. to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984
A drawing on the back of a letter from student Jennifer D. to Charles S. Scott, May 3, 1984. Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145, Box 8, Folder 38. Click image to enlarge.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: “Fight for Justice in Your Campus Community” Edition

January 14th, 2021

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 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, this week’s post features a telegram he sent to KU students in 1965.

In March 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. was helping to organize and lead the Selma to Montgomery protest marches in Alabama. Church duties kept him from attending the first march on March 7, which became known as Bloody Sunday. The next day (March 8), approximately 150 Black and white student-members of KU’s Civil Rights Council staged a sit-in at Chancellor Wescoe’s office in Strong Hall to protest racial discrimination and the policies that supported it at the university. Dr. King sent the below telegram to the students three days later. It was the same day that, according to Wikipedia, he heard the news that President Lyndon B. Johnson was supporting a voting rights bill.

KU’s Civil Rights Council also received a telegram of support from James Farmer, who was a co-founder and National Director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

The first page of a telegram from Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Executive Committee of KU's Civil Rights Council, March 11, 1965
The second page of a telegram from Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Executive Committee of KU's Civil Rights Council, March 11, 1965
A telegram from Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Executive Committee of KU’s Civil Rights Council, March 11, 1965. University Archives. Call Number: RG 67/20 1965: Student Organizations: Civil Rights Council. Click images to enlarge.

In his telegram to the CRC members, Dr. King writes that “It is thoroughly heart warming and encouraging to know we have your support in the struggle for freedom and human dignity in Alabama. We hope [that] you will continue your fight for justice [in?] your campus community for, real knowledge and wisdom cannot flourish in an environment where there is discrimination on the basis of race and color. We [support] you because we know [that injustice anywhere is] a threat to justice everywhere. Keep the faith that right will prevail. You have my prayers for success in your creative efforts. The statement that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” comes from King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

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

Throwback Thursday: Fair Housing March Edition

March 17th, 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 23,200 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Next Monday, March 21st, marks the fifty-second anniversary of a fair housing march at KU, which occurred within a broader, longer struggle to ensure fair housing in Lawrence and at the University.

Photograph of the Fair Housing March, March 21, 1964

Two lines of marchers in front of the Sigma Nu house, Saturday, March 21, 1964.
Photograph by Duke D’Ambra. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1964-03-21: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of the Fair Housing March, March 21, 1964

One of the two lines of marchers included KU football players Gale Sayers (third from right) and
Michael Shinn (fifth from right). Photograph by Duke D’Ambra. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1964-03-21: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The march took place on a Saturday, and the University Daily Kansan reported on it the following Monday.

The weather cleared, the sun shone, and 100 peaceful and orderly demonstrators turned out to picket Sigma Nu fraternity Saturday afternoon.

Picketers marched up and down Emery Road for almost two hours, protesting the discriminatory clause in the national constitution of Sigma Nu [which prohibited any local houses from pledging African Americans].

The number of demonstrators exceeded the expectations of everyone, including the leader of the pickets, George Ragsdale, Lawrence senior and chairman of the Civil Rights Coordinating Committee. The CRCC was formed to coordinate several campus organizations in mass demonstrations protesting alleged de facto segregation of KU fraternities and sororities…

The neatly-dressed demonstrators sang “We Shall Overcome,” while small groups of fraternity men looked on. The pickets paraded back and forth from the intersection of Oxford Road and High Drive to the front entrance of the Sigma Nu house…

The CRCC said it was picketing the KU chapter of Sigma Nu to help the chapter remove its discriminatory clause. The KU chapter unsuccessfully attempted to remove the clause from the Sigma Nu constitution at the last national convention.

The CRCC claims that pressure in the form of pickets will force the national chapter to remove the clause…

When the pickets arrived, after marching across Jayhawk Boulevard from the Kansas Union, a small group of fraternity men greeted them with a few verses of “Dixie.”

Later on, several cars flying Confederate flags drove past the demonstrators, but there were no other incidents…

At 2:30 P.M., the demonstrators lined up along the road in front of the Sigma Nu house and maintained a few minutes of silent protest. They then sand “We Shall Overcome,” and marched to the front steps of Strong Hall where they sang the first verse of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and then dispersed…

You can see additional photographs of the Fair Housing March, which have also been digitized and made available online.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

“We’re All Going to Jail, to Jail”: The University and Civil Rights in 1965

March 23rd, 2015

The 1960s were an iconic time in the United States, marked by social activism and cultural conflict. Lawrence was no exception, and the University of Kansas also experienced civil unrest throughout the decade. This is the first in a two-part series about two very tumultuous years for the university. The year 1965 saw a sit-in at Chancellor Wescoe’s office in Strong Hall. While it was perhaps the most well-known of the protests that year, the demonstration was just one of many to thrust students against authority, inequality, and war. What follows is a timeline of some of the events from that year.

Photograph of a group of Vietnam protestors in downtown Lawrence, 1965 February 21

Group of Vietnam protestors in downtown Lawrence, February 21, 1965.
Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG LJW 71/18 1965: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

February 24: Civil Rights Housing Picket
Approximately thirty-five members of the Civil Rights Council (CRC) staged a picket just before a speech by noted civil libertarian Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Picketers were not against Douglas but were opposed to KU’s complicity in housing discrimination. Douglas spoke to 2,000 in Hoch Auditorium on the role of international law in the nuclear age.

Photograph of Justice William O. Douglas speaking to the crowd inside Hoch Auditorium, 1965 February 24

Justice William O. Douglas speaking to the crowd at Hoch Auditorium, February 24,1965.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/19 Douglas, William O.:
University General: Visitors (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

March 8-9: Fair Housing Sit-In and March
150 members of CRC, both black and white students, gathered in the corridor outside of Chancellor Wescoe’s office the morning of March 8th. The hope was to bring attention to the administration’s unspoken approval of discrimination in campus housing and approved organizations, like fraternities and sororities. The group came with a list of seven demands that the students wanted Wescoe to approve immediately. They included the abolishment of racially discriminatory practices of sororities and fraternities; a rule that the University Daily Kansan could no longer publish advertisements of racially discriminatory landlords and/or organizations; and the formation of a committee of students, faculty members, and administrators to resolve such grievances on campus.

Protestors came and went throughout the day, but as the doors were to be locked to the Chancellor’s suite, 110 of the participants refused to leave. Those that remained were arrested by Lawrence police and taken to county and city jails where they were charged with disturbing the peace and then released on bond. While Lawrence was not the center of the national civil rights movement, those 110 protestors arrested was the largest number besides a demonstration led by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in Alabama. That night around 400 conducted a peaceful candlelight march near the Chancellor’s residence, singing “We Shall Overcome.”

The following day, the demonstrators returned with signs and stood in front of Strong Hall. Wescoe met with representatives from several groups and ultimately met the protesters’ demands. “The 1965 demonstration was perhaps the most successful civil rights protest ever in Lawrence,” said noted Lawrence historian, Rusty L. Monhollon. It did not fix all of the issues immediately, but it was the start of student equality.

Photograph of the civil rights sit-in protest in Strong Hall, 1965

Civil rights sit-in protest in Strong Hall, 1965. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1965: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

March 17: Blood Splashed on ROTC Posters
Charles Hook, president of the University’s Student Peace Union (SPU), slashed his left wrist and spattered his blood on a U.S. Navy bulletin board in the hallway of the Military Science Building on campus. It was a protest against U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam. Hook said the action was “purely spontaneous and an individual gesture” and intended to make the ROTC think about the consequences of their training. United States action in Vietnam would be the cause of several protests on campus and across the country during this time.

March 22-26: Vietnam Vigil at KU
Monday evening began a picket-vigil at the KU Military Science Building. Once again, Charles Hook led the demonstration against U.S. policy in Vietnam and military methods of accomplishing goals. The SPU would have at least one member stand vigil throughout the next several days and nights.

April 28: Park Plaza Fair Housing Picket
Members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and CRC picketed the office of Park Plaza South apartments in Lawrence for not allowing two African American students to rent from them. Led by KU professor Mildred Dickeman, a member of CORE, the picketers stand outside the office from 9 am to 5 pm demanding that the apartment complex implement a non-discriminatory policy.

May 11: Edward Teller H-Bomb Protest
Dr. Edward Teller was a University of California physicist widely regarded as “the father of the hydrogen bomb.” His speech discussed “The Responsibility of the Scientist” and the effects of nuclear war. Dr. Teller’s speech was picketed by twelve representatives of SPU at KU. They stood outside Hoch Auditorium and carried signs that said “Dr. Strange Teller?” and “Bombs for Peace?”

May 21: Third ROTC Review Picket
A group of twenty people representing the SPU picketed the annual ROTC Review in Memorial Stadium. They carried signs reading “The U.S. Talks Peace But Drops Bombs,” “Voluntary ROTC Is a Vote for War,” and “Do We Want Peace in Vietnam or a Piece of Vietnam?” According to Charles Hook, the group hoped to influence some of the cadets to drop out of the ROTC program. Two of the men wore suits and several others wore sports shirts with ties. They marched around the football field during the event. The ROTC Reviews were a popular event to picket and protest during the 1960s and into the 1970s.

Image of a flyer outlining the Student Peace Union's agenda and itinerary for the ROTC Review, undated

Flyer outlining the Student Peace Union’s agenda and itinerary for the ROTC Review, undated.
University Archives. Call Number: RG 67/38 Student Peace Union Records.
Click image to enlarge.

September 22: KU Committee to End War in Vietnam forms
The purpose of the committee was “to provide a nucleus for the channeling of student and faculty opposition to the U.S. policies in Vietnam.” Led by Errol Harris, professor of philosophy, the group planned to focus on educational programs like teach-ins and inviting well-known speakers to campus. One member stated that it is the responsibility of students to inform themselves about a situation for which they may be called upon to give their lives. This attitude would continue at KU for several years as the conflict in Vietnam escalated.

Photograph of Vietnam protestors with signs in front of a store on Massachusetts Street, 1965

Vietnam protestors with signs in front of a store on Massachusetts Street, October 16, 1965.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18 1965: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

December 6: General Taylor/Vietnam Demonstration
General Maxwell Taylor, former ambassador to South Vietnam, appeared for a press conference in the Regents Room of Strong Hall and then delivered a forty-five-minute talk in Hoch Auditorium. A capacity crowd of about 4,000 people attend the speech. Two different groups demonstrated in front of Hoch to protest certain aspects of the war in Vietnam. One was a silent vigil sponsored by the KU-Vietnam Committee and the other was a vocal protest sponsored by The United Campus Christ Fellowship.

Photograph of protests in advance of Maxwell Taylor's speech, 1965 December 5

Protests in advance of Maxwell Taylor’s speech, December 5, 1965.
Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG LJW 71/18 1965: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of General Maxwell Taylor speaking inside Hoch Auditorium, 1965 December 6

General Maxwell Taylor speaking inside Hoch Auditorium on December 6, 1965.
Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG LJW 0/19 Taylor, Maxwell: University General: Visitors (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

JoJo Palko
University Archives Intern