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Archive for Sunday, August 19, 1990

PAST TO DISPEL NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES

August 19, 1990

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Thanks to a movie called "The Wizard of Oz," Kansas for many people means nothing more than tornadoes, gray prairies and joyless folk like Uncle Henry and Auntie Em.

Most people don't think of Kansas as a one-time national leader in fighting alcoholism and improving public health. Nor do they associate the state with labor unrest, the Populist movement or a wide cross-section of ethnic cultures.

Nevertheless, those things are all part of Kansas' history, and now people can read about them in a new book called "Kansas Revisited: Historical Images and Perspectives." Paul Stuewe, Lawrence High School history teacher and editor of the book, said he hopes his effort will broaden people's image of the state.

STUEWE selected the book's 26 readings and dozens of photographs after several months of research, which was funded by the Continuing Education Division of Kansas University. Many of the articles are first-hand accounts of events from various stages in the state's history, all the way from encounters with the Kansa Indians to Brown vs. Board of Education.

A member of the Governor's Kansas History Task Force, Stuewe compiled the reader to help schoolteachers meet the new state mandate that all secondary students take nine weeks of Kansas history before graduating from high school.

However, Stuewe said, the book probably will be of interest to the general public as well. Barb Watkins, coordinator of curriculum and projects at the Continuing Education Division, agrees.

Watkins said that of the 1,000 first-edition copies of the book printed earlier this month, over 500 copies already have been sold. Those books have been picked up not only by schools, but by several bookstores, she said.

"I THINK we're going to have to do a second edition right away," Watkins said. "I'm sure several thousand copies will be sold."

Mary Lou Wright, owner of the Raven Bookstore and member of the Lawrence school board, also thinks the book will appeal to both schoolteachers and booksellers.

"It will supplement whatever textbook teachers have chosen with various personal accounts of history," Ms. Wright said of the reader. It also should please the numerous bookstore customers who are seeking good books on Kansas history, she said.

One of the book's selections is the famous editorial "What's the Matter with Kansas?" by William Allen White.

"Everybody always hears about it, but now people know where they can go to read it," Ms. Wright said.

She said she also enjoyed the printing of a speech by Paul Wilson, an attorney who represented the state of Kansas in the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case. Wilson, a Lawrence resident, has often spoken to KU classes on the subject.

"YOU'D ONLY hear it if you were an entering law student, but there wasn't anywhere you could read it," Ms. Wright said of the speech.

Stuewe hopes one thing readers will see is that Kansas throughout its history has had a rather diverse population.

"A lot of people have this notion that we're a pretty homogeneous lot," Stuewe said. "There are some values that Kansans share, but the people come from a variety of backgrounds."

The book talks about Russian Mennonites who supposedly brought red wheat to Kansas, and about German Lutheran women who served as house servants in Kansas City. The book also mentions the Italians, French, Slovaks and other nationalities who worked as miners in Pittsburg and went on strike in the 1920s.

Stuewe said he hopes the book also will portray the leadership role that Kansas played in various parts of the country's history.

"THE POPULIST movement had its roots in Kansas. And whether you like it or not, Kansas was the leader in Prohibition," Stuewe said. "We might look back at Prohibition and say that was really stupid, but we have to be careful of viewing history in terms of what we know today. That's being very egocentric."

Stuewe's book also talks about Samuel J. Crumbine, who as secretary of the Kansas State Board of Health encouraged the use of flyswatters, separate public drinking cups and window screens to keep out flies. Stuewe said those were pretty innovative ideas back when Crumbine assumed his post in 1904.

Stuewe said the state began to lose its reputation as a leader when it didn't join the rest of the county in deeming Prohibition out of fashion. The state also remained agricultural while the rest of the country industrialized.

"KANSAS no longer was a leader. We became a follower. A lot of times in the state Legislature, we would point to other states in looking for solutions to problems," Stuewe said. "People lose sight of our past leadership role. They think Kansas has always been the way it is now because that's all they know. Hopefully, a history like this will help them to see something else."

And though L. Frank Baum's "Wizard of Oz" books and the subsequent movie have made Kansas the object of much ridicule, Stuewe said the story doesn't paint an entirely negative image of Kansas.

"If there's something to take away from the `Wizard of Oz,' it's that Dorothy is a pretty strong character. She holds her own, and she knows right from wrong," Stuewe said.

THE RAVEN Bookstore will have a book-signing reception at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6. In addition to Stuewe, several of the authors whose articles appear in his book will be invited to the event.

The KU Bookstore also is planning a a book-signing reception for sometime this fall.

Stuewe and Katie Armitage, who has an article in the book, will be in charge of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation's annual Quantrill's Raid tour from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. today. A few spots on the tour are still available, and those interested in going should call Armitage at 841-3303.

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