history

If you’re travelling to Berlin, you’d do well to read Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts. Going to Chicago? Read his The Devil in the White City. However, if you’re going on a cruise, beware Larson’s latest-- and, I think, best-- book, Dead Wake. Larson combines impeccable research, fully drawn characters and social history to tell of a fateful journey when the rules of war became more dangerous for all people.

As we think of the founders of the Wichita area, some names are well known: Mead, Greiffenstein and Munger among them. Others are less known but worth considering. One of them is Feldin Buckner.

Buckner was the slave of a Judge Buckner in Kentucky. When Judge Buckner moved to Missouri, he freed Feldin... or "Fielding," depending on the source. Feldin Buckner married and had a large family. We know from the birthplaces of his eight children that the family moved to Iowa and Nebraska before they arrived in Kansas in the late 1850s, settling along the Whitewater.

Carla Eckels / KMUW

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.

ensh / Flickr / Creative Commons

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.

How Do We Sell Our City?

Dec 2, 2014
vansassa / flickr

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.

This was not always the case.

Pizza and Coke Behind The Iron Curtain

Nov 18, 2014
Maarten / Flickr / Creative Commons

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.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  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.

Where Are We, Really?

Oct 7, 2014
Sue Clark (perpetualplum) / Flickr / Creative Commons

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.

Elvert Barnes (perspective) / Flickr / Creative Commons

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.

Public Domain

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.

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