Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Lawrence Gay Liberation Front: Road to Recognition

October 31st, 2018

In honor of LGBT History Month, we are looking back at some of KU’s LGBT history.

In the late 1960s, gay and lesbian organizations were being created all over college campuses in the United States as a response to the Stonewall Riot in New York City. In 1969, students from the University of Kansas decided to form their own LGBT organization, titled the “Lawrence Gay Liberation Front.”

The Lawrence Gay Liberation Front had a few trials at the beginning of their formation. One of their main goals after establishing themselves was to secure funding through Student Senate. This required being formally recognized as a student organization at the University of Kansas. The group tried on multiple occasions to appeal to Chancellor Laurence Chalmers to be recognized as a student organization at KU. Here is what the Chancellor responded to them after their second attempt for recognition:

Image of a KU news release about the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front student organization, 1970

KU news release about the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front,
September 5, 1970. Call Number: RG 67/66. Click image to enlarge.

After being denied formal recognition from Chancellor Chalmers, the students of the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front decided that they had no other choice but to sue the University of Kansas for infringing on their first and fourteenth amendment rights. The suit was filed in late 1971, two years after the group had formed. Below is a newspaper clipping explaining the federal suit:

Image of a Topeka Capital Journal article about the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front student organization, 1971

A Topeka Capital Journal article about the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front,
December 14, 1971. Call Number: RG 67/66. Click image to enlarge.

Unfortunately, the lawsuit was met with a denial of the organization’s request from U.S. District Court Judge George Templar. The group appealed the ruling multiple times, but in 1973 their fight for recognition was halted by the Supreme Court refusing to hear their case. This frustrated the students of the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front, but they did not disband. Instead, the organization continued to grow and gain support throughout the decade of the 1970s. It was not until a decade after the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front was formed that they received formal recognition as a legitimate student organization at the University of Kansas.

While the road to recognition was difficult for the Gay Liberation Front (renamed Lawrence Gay Liberation Incorporated by the time they were formally recognized), perseverance by a decade of students allowed the group to flourish. Without the dedication of these students, KU would not have the reputation of being a safe haven for LGBTQ+ students in Kansas that is has today. This group is still present on campus today, now titled Spectrum KU.

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

Throwback Thursday: Countdown Edition

October 25th, 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!

Good luck, Jayhawks, in this Saturday’s game against TCU!

Photograph of two KU football players looking at a sign, 1951

Two KU football players looking at a sign, 1951. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 66/14 1951 Team Prints: Athletic Department: Football (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Sweater Weather Edition, Part II

October 11th, 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!

We’re enjoying some chilly autumn weather this week on Mount Oread. It might be time to get out your sweaters and coats!

Photograph of the KU football team, 1892

A studio portrait of four members of the KU football team, 1892. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 66/14 1892 Team Prints: Athletic Department: Football (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: S.A.T.C. Edition

October 4th, 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!

One hundred years ago this week – on October 1, 1918 – almost 2,500 young men were inducted into KU’s unit of the Student Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.).

Photograph of members of KU's Student Army Training Corps in formation, 1918

Members of KU’s S.A.T.C. in formation on campus, 1918.
Spooner Hall is in the background. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 29/0 1918 Prints: Military Service and ROTC (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

According to a “Descriptive Circular” from October 1918, the primary purpose of the S.A.T.C. was to

utilize the executive and teaching personnel and the physical equipment of the educational institutions to assist in the training of our new armies [fighting in World War I]. These facilities will be especially useful for the training of officer-candidates and technical experts of all kinds to meet the needs of the service. This training is being conducted in about 600 colleges, universities, professional, technical and trade schools of the country.

The October 1918 edition of KU’s Graduate Magazine provided these additional details.

A contract to maintain an S. A. T. C. of two thousand members consisting of men over eighteen, who have had a high school education, was made with the University of Kansas by the government. The members are to be given full army uniforms and equipment, are to be lodged and fed in barracks by the government, will have all their university or college tuition paid by the government and will receive thirty dollars a month. Later it was decided to take over the 450 men of the technical training detachment already on the campus, and to organize a naval training camp for two hundred students. Some eighteen hundred men have already registered in the S. A. T. C., so that present indications point to the residence of 2,500 men at the University (16).

At that time, the highest total enrollment on the Lawrence campus had been 2,711 students in Fall 1916.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Homecoming History Edition

September 20th, 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!

Photograph of an early KU Homecoming football game, 1910s

An early KU homecoming football game at McCook Field, 1910s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

For over a century, the tradition of homecoming has been observed across KU and the city of Lawrence. Originating as an opportunity for alumni to revisit campus, the first homecoming game was played against the University of Missouri in November 1912, with KU winning 12-3. Over the next decade, the popular event spun off into many traditions. Some – like homecoming parades – have endured to this day, while others – like the annual tiger bonfire and a day dedicated to dressing like hobos – have disappeared.

Photograph of KU students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931

Students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931. The raucous event became an
integral part of homecoming festivities at KU. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/9 1931 Prints: Student Activities: Hobo Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Homecoming mostly continued on in this fashion for nearly six decades – a week of parties, rallies, and promotional activities leading up to the big football game. It wasn’t until 1970 that the next major development in the history of KU homecoming took place. In 1969, senior student Janet Merrick was crowned KU’s final homecoming queen. The selection of the homecoming queen had been part of the celebration since 1925. Protests surrounding the war in Vietnam and a growing sense of student-establishment tension deemed the tradition to be clashing with modern sensibilities. Additionally, frustrated with a process that had never resulted in a black homecoming queen, KU’s Black Student Union first chose its own queen in 1969. The following year was the first homecoming celebration without a queen, and the tradition remains shelved. The Black Student Union continues to crown a homecoming queen each year.

Photograph of KU Homecoming Queen Jan Merrick, 1969

Homecoming Queen Janet Merrick, 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 1969 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The following year, KU introduced a second Jayhawk mascot. During halftime of the 1971 homecoming game against Kansas State University, Baby Jay was unveiled to the student body after hatching from a giant blue egg. Big Jay and Baby Jay have been staples of the university spirit team ever since.

Photograph of the Baby Jay egg, 1971

Baby Jay egg, 1971. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/25 1971
Negatives: University General: Jayhawk mascot, dolls, etc (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of KU Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971

Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 2/13 1971 Prints:
Chancellors: E. Laurence Chalmers (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

In 1993 there may have been some consideration in reviving the homecoming court; however, a new tradition began instead. An award was given to students that exhibited academic excellence, leadership, and a strong sense of service to the Lawrence community. This became the KU Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Awards, or the KU Ex.C.E.L. Awards. This honor has been given to two students, every homecoming, for the past twenty-eight years.

Homecoming in more recent years has seen the emergence of new traditions. For example, at Chalk ‘n’ Rock, student groups and organizations create elaborate chalk murals along Wescoe Beach. The Jayhawk Jingles continue as a new version of the Jayhawk Follies; students compete in a contest of musical performances.

Photograph of the Jayhawk Follies, 1954

Four women dancing on stage dressed as dolls in the Jayhawk Follies, 1954.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1954 Prints: Student Activities:
Homecoming (Photos). Click on image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

This year, KU faces off against Oklahoma State in the 106th homecoming football game. The theme this year is “Home on the Hill,” a call for alumni to return home to their University as they always have and for current students to further solidify their own homes on the hill.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern