This month marks the 50th anniversary of a KC-135 crashing into a predominantly African American neighborhood in northeast Wichita. This was more than just a neighborhood with a particular racial makeup, however. It represented the postwar suburban dream for Wichita’s African American community.
The meaning of the words justice served relies on the social, political and legal contexts in which it is applied.
Two 19th-century U.S. Supreme Court cases reflect how the Court’s decisions can be swayed by contemporary racial politics. In its 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, the Court declared that African Americans could not sue for freedom in federal court because they were not considered citizens. This decision reversed 28 years of precedent, reflecting more the heightened division over slavery than impartial justice.
The recent controversy with Believable Brands or the efforts of the Visioneering Wichita project a few years ago are part of a recent trend where Wichita leaders bring in outside firms to help the city market itself.
When I was a youngster in Wichita in the 1980s, I knew that the Soviets were the "bad guys" and that the world would be destroyed in the event of World War III, thanks to the Evil Empire. Like dozens of cities in America, locals asserted that our hometown would be one of the first to be obliterated in a nuclear war.
American readers know Dashiell Hammett as the author of hard-boiled detective classics, like The Maltese Falcon, and as the long-time romantic partner of playwright Lillian Helmann.
We’re often less familiar with his radical beliefs in equality and political freedom that formed the foundation of his characters’ moral compasses and provided the backdrop to the uncertainty, darkness and ethical conflicts that transform his detective stories into literary fiction.
Wichitans today think of our city as part of the Midwest. Into the 1920s, however, Wichita saw itself as Southwestern, part of a region that included Texas and Oklahoma.
Cattle drives from Texas and railroad links confirmed this orientation. Promoters described the city as “Queen City of the Greater Southwest.” By 1910, Wichita saw itself as the capital of an “Empire of the Southwest,” a trade area consisting of Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle.
One of the talking points associated with the recent racial disturbance in Ferguson, Mo. is the enhanced militarization of contemporary municipal police forces.
This process began in the late 1960s, in the aftermath of the widespread racial disturbances of that era. Moreover, as Michelle Alexander discusses in her book The New Jim Crow, this arms build-up accelerated in the 1970s, as local law enforcement agencies across the country began a so-called “War On Drugs,” waged primarily in black and brown neighborhoods.
This year, Americans are observing the 200th anniversaries of events from the War of 1812, such as the burning of Washington, D.C. and the attack on Fort McHenry.
This year also marks the 200th anniversary of the Hartford Convention. Comprised of clandestine meetings held by anti-war New Englanders between December 1814 and January 1815, the Convention called for radical actions, such as the nullification of federal laws and possible secession from the union.
Ivanpah, in Greenwood County, is today little more than a schoolhouse. I recently gave a talk about it for the Symphony in the Flint Hills.
Dating from 1879, the community owed its origins to a sheep rancher named A.H. Thompson and a newspaperman, Frank Presbrey. A few days before I was to give my talk, a random internet search uncovered a story that made my jaw drop.