Wichita African American history


While working on the African Americans of Wichita book project, I was struck by how many prominent figures of the 20th century were veterinarians. For example, Dr. Thomas G. Perry opened the first small animal hospital on Cleveland Street in 1921, later joining the faculty of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Other figures included Dr. G. T. Bronson, Tuskegee airman Dr. Don Jackson and Dr. T. E. McDonald.

Given that my father is a veterinarian, the number of animal doctors in the community definitely caught my attention.

Jay Price / KMUW

The McClinton Market is gone.

Back in 2011, things seemed more promising when the building at 1205 E 12th Street in Wichita was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. I remember that nomination; I was on the State Historic Sites Board of Review then. It was one of the few surviving early African American owned business buildings in the city.

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

It’s reported that less than half of the 2.5-million African American soldiers who registered for the armed forces at the beginning of World War II were called to serve. Those who were enlisted found that as they served their country abroad, they still faced less than a democratic reception at home.

The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the most widely circulated African-American newspapers of its time, received a humble, patriotic, but assertive letter to the editor in 1942. It was penned by 26 year-old African American James G. Thompson of Wichita.

Dr. Galyn Vesey is a unique individual in the context of Wichita history. Vesey received his Ph.D. from Syracuse University and his academic career included stints at Utica College and Alabama A & M University. He not only represents “living history” but also seeks, as a scholar, to re-create an important part of Wichita’s African American historical experience.

Fletcher Powell / KMUW

Kudos are in order for Wichita’s James Arbertha and the Power Community Development Corporation for their long standing efforts to renovate the historic Dunbar Theater at 10th and Cleveland.