Past and Present

Three Wichita State history professors, Drs. Robin Henry, Robert Weems, and Jay Price, will talk about Wichita history, parallels between current events and historical happenings, and how historical events got us to where we are today.

Starting January 15.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wikimedia Commons

One nice thing about teaching Kansas history is that it is easy to draw a state map: just create a rectangle with one corner nibbled off.

This map could have been very different, however.

Our story begins in 1854, with the creation of the massive Territory of Kansas that extended from Missouri to the Continental Divide. With Utah on its western border, territorial Kansas included both Pike’s Peak and Bent’s Fort.

Cocoabiscuit / Flickr / Creative Commons

As we prepare again to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the ironies of the holiday and King’s memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, is that King, himself, was far more modest in how he wished to be remembered.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr / Creative Commons

2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark civil rights case, Brown v. Board of Education. However, Brown could have been decided one year earlier, if not for some unusual circumstances that brought the lawyers back to the Supreme Court to argue the case… for a second time.

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