Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Edition, Part II

January 17th, 2019

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!

Photograph of a Martin Luther King, Jr. march at KU, 1982

Martin Luther King, Jr. march at KU, January 11, 1982. The banner reads
“March for Martin (Martin Luther King, Jr.) Declare Jan. 15th a Nat’l. Holiday.”
Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG LJW 71/18 1982 Prints: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

This photo was taken four years before the first nationally-observed holiday commemorating Dr. King’s birthday. For more information about the history of the holiday’s creation, see Don Wolfensberger’s essay “The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday: The Long Struggle in Congress,” presented for a 2008 seminar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Assassination Commemoration Edition

April 5th, 2018

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!

This week’s photograph commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photograph of a Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination demonstration, 1968

KU students in front of Strong Hall honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 5, 1968.
Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG LJW 71/18 1968-04-06: Student Activities:
Student Protests (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The sign the students are holding – more visible in other photos of the events that took place on campus and in Lawrence on April 5, 1968 – says “Join us in our revulsion and sorrow at the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

An article in the Lawrence Daily Journal-World described the events of the day.

About 700 persons, mainly Kansas University faculty members and students, this morning participated in ceremonies honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the nonviolent prophet of the civil rights movement who was slain Thursday in Memphis, Tenn.

The vigil in front of KU’s Strong Hall began at 9:10 this morning as seven KU students lowered to half-staff the flag in front of the university administration building. They held a sign which said “Join us in our revulsion and sorrow at the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

By 10 a.m., there were 22 persons standing in front of the lowered flag. The group swelled to 61 by 11:15 a.m., and to about 100 persons by 11:20 a.m. Then, as classes changed, hundreds of persons approached the area to participate in a previously-announced memorial service sponsored by the KU Religious Advisors.

The final attendance estimate was made by Rev. Tom Rehorn of the Methodist Wesley Foundation.

Nicholas Gerren, Wilberforce, Ohio, junior at KU, read a eulogy, which said in part: “My black brother is dead. His only sin was a desire for peace, his only wrong was a love for the black man. Here in America, the land of the free press, the land of free speech, he took a stand, fought, spoke, and died for what he believed.”

The 15-minute ceremony ended at 11:45 this morning as Rev. Rehorn announced there would be a silent march in Dr. King’s honor. The march which began at Strong Hall ended in South Park. Leading several hundred persons en route down Mass. St. were two KU students who carried a sign which said “Martin Luther King –1929-1968.”

Earlier this morning, a group of KU students set up a booth in the main lobby of the Kansas Union, where they urged passers-by to send telegrams urging passage of civil rights legislation to their congressmen. The booth was placed in front of a large sign which said “Let’s Make This Tragedy Work for Peace – Help Pass the Bill.”

Tom Miller, Paola senior at KU, said he and Ned Valentine, Clay Center senior, organized the “telegram movement” Thursday night. He said they telephoned friends at various colleges around the nation, asking students to send telegrams to congressmen using passage of civil rights legislation bottled up in a House committee.

Students for [Democrat Eugene] McCarthy and Students for [Democrat Robert F.] Kennedy [in the 1968 election] both are helping with the “telegram movement,” Miller said.

While Miller and others were busy in the Union, a group of 36 Negro students were marching down Jayhawk Boulevard singing “We Shall Overcome.” The students, some wearing black armbands, gathered in front of Strong Hall for silent prayer at about 9:20 a.m. The brief ceremony ended at 9:30 a.m.

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

Smoke and Fire: Political and Civil Unrest at the University

May 5th, 2015

By 1969 American society was increasingly uncivil and the University of Kansas was facing a crisis. The struggle for civil rights and racial equality continued, but was joined by a radicalized white youth. They did not believe that American involvement in the Vietnam War was justifiable and had no interest in being drafted. Tension would remain high throughout the year, culminating in the so-called “Days of Rage” that included racial conflicts, student protests, bomb threats, arson, and sniper fire. This second and final part in a series about two of the most tumultuous years for the University outlines the events from May 1969 to May 1970.

May 9, 1969: Protest Cancels ROTC Review

The annual Chancellor’s ROTC Review was cancelled when 200 protesters broke down the gate into Memorial Stadium. They began by reading the names of the 33,379 servicemen and women killed in Vietnam to date and then joined together on the field and started a sit-in, chanting and waving signs against the ROTC. Chancellor W. Clarke Wescoe decided the review could not be accomplished in such circumstances and wanted to avoid violence from the agitated crowd. The protest was organized by KU Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Afterward, 33 of 71 identified protestors were suspended for one semester by KU in confidential hearings. The event left Wescoe visibly drained and worried about what lay ahead; his fears would not be unfounded.

 

Photograph of ROTC demonstration in front of Strong Hall, May 1969

The group of protestors rallies in front of Strong Hall before their disruption
of the ROTC Review, May 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1969: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of a ROTC demonstration, May 9, 1969

Protestors during the ROTC Review at Memorial Stadium, May 9, 1969.
ROTC members stand on the track in the background. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1969: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

October 15, 1969: National Vietnam Moratorium Day

More than 3,500 KU students, faculty, and locals paraded on Memorial Drive and Jayhawk Boulevard in protest of the Vietnam War. Later, about 150 people gathered in front of Strong Hall in a silent vigil held behind rows of white crosses. The day also included four KU professors making their case against the war inside Hoch Auditorium, attended by 3,000 students. Similar rallies and gatherings were happening all over the country, pressuring President Nixon to change policy in the Vietnam War.

Photograph of protestors lined up behind white crosses, October 15, 1969

Protestors lined up behind white crosses on the lawn of Strong Hall on
National Vietnam Moratorium Day, October 15, 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1969: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click images to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of two men silently protesting on campus, October 15, 1969

Two men silently protesting on campus,
National Vietnam Moratorium Day, October 15, 1969.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18 1969:
Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

February 23, 1970: University Daily Kansan dumped into Potter Lake

In retaliation for the University printers’ decision to no longer print the Black Student Union’s (BSU) Harambee, the group gathered 6,000 copies of the UDK and tossed them into Potter Lake on campus. Harambee celebrated black culture and encouraged black solidarity. It ran information for a scholarship program established by BSU but also included Black Power Movement ideology, like the need for oppressed people to arm themselves to achieve freedom. The reaction from some white groups deemed the material obscene and inflammatory, leading to the printers’ decision to discontinue its service.

Photograph of men pulling copies of the University Daily Kansan out of Potter Pond, February 23, 1970

Photograph of men pulling copies of the University Daily Kansan out of Potter Pond, February 23, 1970

Black Student Union Protest, men pulling copies of the University Daily Kansan
out of Potter Pond, February 23, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1970: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

February 26, 1970: Black Student Union Protest

The BSU presented a list of demands calling for more black faculty members and students and the creation of a black studies program. The timetable for the demands was deemed unrealistic by Chancellor Chalmers, but an African Studies program would be created later in the year.

April 20, 1970: Arson Fire at Memorial Union

The culminating act in a day of mayhem and a week of civil disorder on the KU campus, a period often referred to as the “Days of Rage,” was the April 20, 1970, fire at the Kansas Union. Eventually deemed arson, the fire caused nearly a million dollars in damage and took place against the backdrop of a nation in turmoil over the Vietnam War and racial unrest in a college town considered a “hot bed” of political activism and protest.

Photograph of the Memorial Union fire, 1970

Memorial Union fire, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/54/f 1970: Campus Buildings: Memorial Union (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of the Memorial Union fire, exterior damage, 1970

Memorial Union fire, exterior damage, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/54/f 1970: Campus Buildings: Memorial Union (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Memorial Union fire, interior damage, 1970

Memorial Union fire, interior damage, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/54/i 1970: Campus Buildings: Memorial Union (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

May 5-8, 1970

The month of May witnessed the greatest display of campus dissent and disorder. As the end of the 1970 school year approached, KU protesters urged fellow students to go on strike. After the US invasion of Cambodia and four student deaths at Kent State, the campus was on high alert.

May 5: A coffin-bearing crowd of 500 marches against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State massacre.

May 6: ROTC Review was cancelled for the second straight year as a crowd of 1,000 rallies against the group on campus. About 200 re-grouped and damaged the Military Science Building on campus.

Photograph of the Military Science Building, damage from student protests, May 7, 1970

Military Science Building, damage from student protests, May 7, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1970: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

May 8: Chancellor E. Laurence Chalmers held an Alternative Convocation attended by 12,000 and allowed students to choose between finishing the semester in classes or completing the semester early and taking part in some political activity of their choice. Antiwar activists were upset the University did not take an official stand against the war and close down. Conservative politicians, regents, and alumni thought the Chancellor caved in to student radicals.

Photograph of Day of Alternatives, Chancellor Chalmers with students, May 8, 1970

Chancellor Chalmers with students at Memorial Stadium for the
Alternative Convocation, May 8, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1970: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Day of Alternatives, Chancellor Chalmers addressing students, May 8, 1970

Day of Alternatives, Chancellor Chalmers addressing students at Memorial Stadium, May 8, 1970.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18 1970: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

JoJo Palko
University Archives Intern