Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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: 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