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Kenneth Spencer Research Libraries houses “Education: The Mightiest Weapon” exhibit

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The University of Kansas Libraries have opened a new exhibit, “Education: The mightiest weapon.” Located in Kenneth Spencer Research Library, the exhibit explores the educational experiences of African American Kansans, including artifacts surrounding the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

“Education: The mightiest weapon” features holdings from the African American Experience Collections, a component of Spencer Research Libraries’ Kansas Collection. Initiated in1986, the African American Experience Collection houses significant personal and family papers and records of organizations, churches and businesses, preserving the rich histories of African American lives across Kansas.

“Education is a core theme across collections donated by Kansas African American leaders, families, churches and organizations across the region,” said Deborah Dandridge, field archivist and curator for the African American Experience Collections. “The featured collections highlight ways African Americans experienced formal education in Kansas until the late 1950s. While resisting and litigating against racially segregated schools, they also incorporated Kansas African American schools into their formal network of organizations to enhance the social capital they needed to survive and achieve during the era of ‘Jim Crow.’”

The exhibit features materials on Charles S. Scott, one of the local attorneys who represented thirteen families in the 1951 Kansas case that was later combined with four other cases across the nation to become the landmark 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Records from Kansas City’s Sumner High School, the only African American high school established in Kansas, are also featured, including faculty lists, building and classroom designs and the student council minute book.

“Our African American holdings have an impressive breadth and depth of materials,” said Sherry Williams, curator of collections. “The materials provide a rich history and context, and I am pleased to share them as evidence of the African American experience as a necessary component to researching Kansas history.”

“Education: The mightiest weapon” will be on display through May 18 in Spencer Research Library. More exhibit information can be found on the Spencer webpage.

“Brown v. Board of Education was and continues to be a groundbreaking moment in U.S. history. We are grateful to have such an important component of Kansas' contributions to that history on display,” said Kevin L. Smith, dean of KU Libraries. “The exhibit holdings highlight our continued commitment to collection and preservation efforts that focus on diverse histories of Kansans.”

A reception for the exhibit will be held on Friday, April 7 from 5:30-7 p.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin with a cocktail reception at 5:30, followed by brief remarks at 6:15. To attend, please RSVP by April 3 to Jennifer Muse at 785-864-8961 or

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