Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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

Exhibition Snapshot: Sumner High School, Kansas City, KS

February 27th, 2017

Spencer Research Library’s current exhibition, Education: The Mightiest Weapon,” highlights African American school experiences in the state of Kansas, focusing primarily on the period before 1955.  In the coming days we’ll feature a longer post on the exhibition, but today we share an image and a label to whet your appetite. “Education: The Mightiest Weapon” is on display in Spencer Library’s gallery space through May 18th, 2017.

Sumner High School, Kansas City, KS

Sumner is a child not of our own volition but rather an offspring of the race antipathy of a bygone period. It was a veritable blessing in disguise—a flower of which we may proudly say, “The bud had a bitter taste, but sweet indeed is the flower”

Photograph of Students in Chemistry Classroom, 1930s, Sumner High School, Kansas City, KS

Chemistry Classroom, 1930s, Sumner High School.  Sumner High School Collection. Call #: RH MS-P 1137.
Click image to enlarge.

In 1905, the Kansas State Legislature passed a law exempting Kansas City, Kansas from the state law prohibiting racially segregated public high schools. Reluctantly, the Governor of Kansas E. W. Hoch signed the bill, but persuaded the majority of Kansas City, Kansas voters to construct a new high school building for African Americans at no less than $40,000 and to be as well-equipped as the existing Kansas City, Kansas High School. Determined to overcome the inequities of racial segregation, the teachers, students and community members of Sumner High School strove to develop a tradition of academic excellence. They countered the local school board’s proposals for an emphasis on manual training courses by implementing a curriculum that emphasized college preparatory classes at Sumner.  By 1914, Sumner was a member of the prestigious North Central Association of Secondary Schools. Until the 1970s, the majority of African American students attending the University of Kansas were graduates of Sumner High School.

Sumner closed in 1978 under a federally mandated plan for racial integration of schools in Kansas City, Kansas.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator, African American Experience Collections

Meet the KSRL Staff: Deborah Dandridge

February 22nd, 2016

This is the sixth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Deborah Dandridge is the Field Archivist/Curator for the African American Experience Collections in our Kansas Collection.

Deborah Dandridge. Field Archivist/Curator for African American Experience Collections.

Deborah Dandridge reading over her presentation notes
at the Black Archives of Mid-America conference held in
Kansas City, MO this past October.

Where are you from?

I was born in Topeka, Kansas, where I attended school K through 12. I began kindergarten at Washington School, one of the city’s four elementary schools designated for African American students and teachers. After the 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision, I completed my grade school education at Washington because my parents determined that Washington’s excellent faculty and supportive environment afforded me the best opportunity for a quality education, although I lived only a half block from a previous whites-only school.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I reach out to communities across the state for donations of their historical materials (i.e. written and photographic) that document the experiences of African American families, churches, organizations, and businesses and I serve as curator of these materials (i.e. the African American Experience Collections).

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I began my work in KSRL as field archivist for a 1986-1989 National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant awarded to the Kansas Collection, in cooperation with KU’s African and African American Studies department.

What is the strangest item you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

All of the items reflect important experiences in the lives of the donors. They represent special moments or routine activities of the past that inform us about the present.

What part of your job do you like the most?

Visiting with potential donors of materials and participating in community public programs across the Kansas region.

What are your favorite pastimes?

Although it’s difficult, I’m enjoying my new journey into the world of physical training as a client of an expert in the field.

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Be prepared to embark upon a fascinating, never seen before, exploration of the rich, diverse record of human past.

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

In Commemoration: Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965

March 9th, 2015

This weekend’s three-day commemoration of the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” recognized one of the pivotal events of the Modern Civil Rights Movement.  The occasion drew President Barack Obama, the First Lady and their daughters, former President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush, as well as a delegation of bipartisan Congressional representatives to Selma, Alabama.

On Sunday, March 7, 1965, about 600 civil rights activists marched in silence from Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama for the Montgomery state capitol building to memorialize the shooting death of Jimmy Lee Jackson by a state trooper at a peaceful voting rights rally in Marion, Alabama and to protest against the intransigent opposition to African Americans registering to vote.  The opposition to voting rights was especially strong in Selma, Alabama, where half of the population was African American and had not been allowed to vote since the late nineteenth century. Immediately after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers were halted by heavily armed state troopers and local police who ordered them to turn back. When they refused, the troopers and police, in full view of news media and other photographers, mercilessly beat and tear-gassed the marchers. Today, this tragic event in our nation’s history is often referred to as “Bloody Sunday.” A week later, in a televised speech, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked for a voting rights bill, and on August 6, Congress passed the
1965 Voting Rights Act.

Spencer Research Library’s Kansas Collection includes sources that document the region’s support for Bloody Sunday’s civil rights workers and their efforts. We share a selection of these documents.

 

ITEMS FROM THE AFRICAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE COLLECTIONS

The Wichita Chapter of the NAACP was an early leader in the Modern Civil Rights Movement’s strategy of breaking down the color line through non-violent, direct action.   The Chapter’s Youth Council organized the movement’s first lunch counter sit-in on July 19, 1958.  A month later, the Youth Council in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma conducted their sit-in.

On March 20, 1965, the Topeka Branch of the NAACP organized and led a Sympathy March for the civil rights activists in Selma, Alabama.

Samuel C. Jackson served as the president of the Topeka Chapter of the NAACP, which had been first established in 1913. Born in Kansas City, Kansas, Jackson earned his law degree from Washburn University Law School and was a WWII veteran. During the fall of 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the first U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Four years later, he was appointed General Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by President Richard M. Nixon.

 Portrait of Samuel C. Jackson

Photograph: Samuel C. Jackson portrait. Samuel C. Jackson Collection, Call Number: RH MS-P 557, Box 1, Folder 4.
Click image to enlarge.

The Topeka Branch of the NAACP distributed this flyer to mobilize community participation and support for the Sympathy March.

 Citizen’s Attention flyer

Citizen’s Attention flyer. Samuel C. Jackson Collection.
Call Number: RH MS 557 Box 1, Folder 11. Click image to enlarge.

 

On Saturday morning, March 20, 1965, about 150 marchers began their journey from Second Baptist Church on 424 N.W. Laurent Street in Topeka, Kansas and walked across the Topeka Avenue Bridge, wearing black armbands and carrying signs that read “Topeka NAACP Deplores Selma’s Brutality,” “Mourners March,” and “Police Brutality Must Go.”

Newspaper clipping of “Topeka Rights March.”

Newspaper clipping of “Topeka Rights March.” Samuel C. Jackson Collection.
Call Number: RH MS 557 Box 1, Folder 11. Click image to enlarge.

The Sympathy March continued through the streets of Topeka, Kansas.

Civil Rights Marchers.  Topeka, KS, 1965.

Civil Rights Marchers.  Topeka, KS, 1965. J. B. Anderson Collection.
Call Number: RH MS-P 1230 Box 1, Folder 31.  Click image to enlarge.

When the Sympathy March reached the downtown area of Topeka, about 100 more participants joined them as the demonstration moved toward South Kansas Avenue to the Topeka Post Office where they placed in the mail hundreds of letters and petitions to the Kansas Congressional Delegation, urging them to support upcoming civil rights legislation.

Sympathy March, Topeka, March 1965

Sympathy March, Topeka, March 1965.  J.B. Anderson Collection.
Call Number: RH MS-P 1230 Box 1, Folder 31.  Click image to enlarge.

In the Greater Kansas City area and in Independence, Missouri, local chapters of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the NAACP led silent marches throughout the day on Sunday, March 14, 1965. More than 1,200 people participated in these demonstrations.

Greater Kansas City Marches. March 14, 1965

Greater Kansas City Marches. March 14, 1965. Greater Kansas City Council on Religion and Race Collection.
Call Number: RH MS 786 Box 8, File 12.  Click image to enlarge.

 

At the Music Hall in Kansas City, Missouri, the Greater Kansas City Council on Religion and Race, an organization of clergy and lay members of all faiths dedicated to the advancement and attainment of interracial justice and charity, sponsored a community memorial service for the Reverend James J. Reeb, who was murdered by white vigilantes in Selma, Alabama on March 11, 1965. He had traveled to Selma a few days after “Bloody Sunday” to support the area’s civil rights workers. A Unitarian Universalist minister and a social worker, The Reverend Reeb was born in Wichita Kansas and resided in Russell, Kansas as a youth.

Second Reeb Memorial Program, March 14, 1965.

Reeb Memorial Program. Greater Kansas City Council on Religion and Race Collection.
Call Number: RH MS 786 Box 8, File 12. Click image to enlarge.

 

The KU Libraries is a co-sponsor of the African and African American Studies Department’s public program Selma: A Film Screening and Panel Discussion on March 25, 2015, at 5:30p.m. in Wescoe Hall, Room 3140.

 

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator
African American Experience Collections

Throwback Thursday: Alpha Kappa Alpha Edition

February 5th, 2015

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 1,700 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

This week we’re highlighting photographs of an historic KU organization found within Spencer’s African American Experience Collections. Additional materials about Alpha Kappa Alpha – primarily donated by former members – can be found in Spencer’s Kansas Collection by searching our online finding aids. Records and photographs documenting the Delta’s Chapter’s history at KU can also be found in University Archives at call number RG 67/128

Photograph of the Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Chapter, 1930

Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Chapter, 1930. Dorothy Hodge Johnson Collection.
Call Number: RH MS-P 549. Click image to enlarge.

The Delta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated celebrates its first 100 years at the University of Kansas during the weekend of February 13-15, 2015. It is the first African American Greek-letter organization chartered at KU.

Their national organization, Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), which began in 1908 at Howard University, is our nation’s first sorority organized by African American college and university women. Today AKA includes members from diverse racial and ethnic identities.

On Friday, February 13, 2015, from 1p.m. to 3p.m., Spencer Research Library will present a display of the Delta Chapter’s archives at the Oread Hotel. It will include these historical photographs (and the one above) from the Kansas Collection’s African American Experience Collections:

Photograph of the Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Chapter house, circa 1940-1949

AKA Delta Chapter house at 1101 Indiana in Lawrence, circa 1940-1949.
Dorothy Hodge Johnson Collection. Call Number: RH MS-P 549. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Chapter Ivy Leaf Pledge Club, 1944

AKA Delta Chapter Ivy Leaf Pledge Club, 1944. Photograph by Duke D’Ambra.
Julia V. (Richards) Harris Collection. Call Number: RH MS-P 1179. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Chapter Ivy Leaf Pledge Club, 1945

AKA Delta Chapter Ivy Leaf Pledge Club, 1945. Photograph by Duke D’Ambra.
Julia V. (Richards) Harris Collection. Call Number: RH MS-P 1179. Click image to enlarge.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator
African American Experience Collections