Past and Present

Commentary
5:00 am
Tue June 17, 2014

Another Piece of the Civil Rights Fight

Howard W. Smith was responsible for adding sex as a protected class in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

On June 19th 1964, the Senate passed the Civil Rights Act, breaking the 83-day filibuster by Southern Democrats. While this act is recognized as a groundbreaking piece of civil rights legislation for African Americans, it also held the key to future civil rights advancements and protections for women.

Two days before the final vote, Representative Howard W. Smith, a powerful Democrat from Virginia, added sex as a protected class to Title VII, a section that prohibits discrimination by employers. Historians have been wondering about his motivations ever since.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue June 3, 2014

The German Influence In Wichita's Early Days

Century II now stands where Wichita founding father "Dutch Bill" Greiffenstein once had his farm.
Credit Kristin Nador / Flickr / Creative Commons

In 1878, the editors of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung, a German-language newspaper out of Chicago, visited Wichita and noted that the city’s population was about a third German, among them mayor and Wichita founding father Wilhelm “Dutch Bill” Greiffenstein. The visitors were impressed that there was even a fraternal “Turnverein,” or Turner’s Society, in town.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Is The Balance Of Power Changing?

The federal reaction to the new Colorado marijuana law suggests power may be shifting
Credit Lucas Hayas / Flickr / Creative Commons

Since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, the federal government has been the center of power in this country. However, two recent developments suggest that this may be shifting.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Past And Present: A Major Landmark In The Fight For Civil Rights

Credit David / Flickr / Creative Commons

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the celebrated civil rights case, Brown v. Board of Education. However, on May 3, 1954, two weeks before the Brown ruling, the Supreme Court delivered another important decision in the American Civil Rights movement.

In Hernandez v. Texas, the court declared that the 14th Amendment’s right to equal protection extended to all racial and ethnic groups. In 1951, Texas convicted an agricultural worker named Pedro Hernandez of murdering Joe Espinosa.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Past And Present: The Life of a Wichita Intersection

The ghost sign on the former Boston Store near Douglas and Main
Jay Price KMUW

I recently had the privilege to lead two walking tours along Douglas Avenue. Many were amazed at how much the center of Wichita has changed.

A photograph of Douglas and Main from 1870 shows a few wood structures and tents in the middle of a grassy plain. Two years later, according to one recollection, the intersection “clanged with the noisy spurs of Texas cowboys and Mexican ranchmen” and “a brass band played from morning to far into the night on a two-story platform raised over the sidewalk.”

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Past and Present: Baking A Bigger Pie

Dr. Robert E. Weems, Jr.
Credit Courtesy photo / Wichita State University

A historic and ongoing shortcoming of the U.S. economy is its underutilization of the entrepreneurial potential within nonwhite communities. For instance, because of this longstanding problem, in Kansas today, nonwhites make up 20 percent of the state’s population, yet only seven percent of Kansas’ businesses are minority-owned.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue March 25, 2014

How A Devastating Tragedy Led To Real Workplace Reform

1911 drawing depicting the Triangle fire
Credit Kheel Center / Flickr / Creative Commons

In the afternoon of March 25, 1911, the New York City fire department answered a call from Greenwich Village and found smoke billowing out of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory that occupied the top floors of the Asch Building.

As smoke turned to fire, a crowd gathered below to watch as the firefighters attempted to put out a fire that had grown beyond the reach of their equipment. Inside, fear and panic mounted as the largely female workforce found their escape blocked by the fire, and the doors locked by managers who thought the women took too many breaks.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue March 11, 2014

How A Digital Database Revealed The Early Days Of Delano

Historians will always need to visit archives and libraries, although it is truly amazing how much information is available in digital form.

A few months ago, I was looking at a Sedgwick County mapping database and was surprised when a search for material on Delano turned up a document for the community of Elgin, platted in early 1871. A quick search turned up an almost identical plat for the community of Delano a few months later. Clearly, one replaced the other.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Past and Present: The Anniversary Of A Continuing Battle

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Credit Wikimedia Commons

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This landmark legislation made it illegal to discriminate against someone based upon their race or place of birth.

Before 1964, the experiences of transplanted Africans in this country were dramatically influenced by slavery and Jim Crow racial segregation. During the past 50 years, many African Americans, under the protection of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, have achieved a level of social and economic mobility that their ancestors could only have dreamt of.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day, Murder And The Rise Of The FBI

Al Capone is a bad Valentine
Credit Wikimedia Commons

On February 14th, 1929, Chicago’s North Side neighborhood of Lincoln Park erupted into violence, leaving dead seven members of Al Capone’s and Bugs Moran’s rival gangs.

For the next 10 months, newspaper headlines announced leads that directed police to reluctant witnesses, the charred remains of the getaway car, and eventually to the single conviction of Fred Burke.

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