Archive for Sunday, January 14, 2007

A history of segregation

City no different from others in discrimination

January 14, 2007


One flight up from a bronze plaque recalling the location of an 1850s abolitionist newspaper and not far from a plaque marking where John Brown once spoke, Eloise Caldwell taps once on a polished brass railing above a no-smoking sign in Liberty Hall.

Though a born-again Christian who says she's overcome years of bitterness, she can't hold back a stern glance when she then points to the section of seats in Liberty Hall's southwest balcony. That's where, 50 years ago, blacks automatically went to sit when they came to see a show.

"As I became older and realized what that was all about, then I became angry," said the 71-year-old Lawrence Memorial Hospital electrocardiograph technician. "I felt that it was unfair and unjust that we had to be segregated because of the color of our skin, that we couldn't sit anywhere we wanted to because of who we were."

Today, many blacks who grew up in Lawrence 50 years ago can point out several places along Massachusetts Street that segregated or excluded them.

"There is a proud Bleeding Kansas history," said Bill Tuttle, professor of American Studies at Kansas University, referring to the abolitionist "Free State" role in Lawrence, where the layout of today's downtown harkens back to the Civil War.

"But there's another story as well," he said. "And it should be told."


Gone is the building at 745 Mass., where in the 1940s, Marshall Tyler Sr. cooked at the Green Lantern Cafe.

Walking in the back alley behind a newer brick building, his daughter, Alice Fowler, 71, a former Lawrence school board member, recalls the day she made the mistake of entering the cafe through the front door to get a malt.

"The waitress that I encountered looked a little bit surprised that I was in there," said the lifelong Lawrence resident who lives in the same house her parents did. "So she went to the back and got my dad. He told me I wasn't supposed to be in the front part of the restaurant, that I couldn't be served there, that I had to come to the back."

In Lawrence, blacks didn't have to go to the back of the bus or to a separate train car on the Santa Fe or Union Pacific railroads. Pinckney School and Lawrence High School were integrated long before the landmark 1954 Supreme Court desegregation decision of Brown v. Board of Education.

Blacks could go into most retail stores, though they recall being followed or unable to try on clothes.

But the theaters on Massachusetts Street - the Granada, the Varsity, the Patee and the Jayhawker Theater in Liberty Hall - were segregated, sending blacks to balconies, many remember.

Segregation in Lawrence

A history of segregation in Lawrence. Enlarge video

In some white-owned restaurants, pools and bowling alleys, they were excluded outright.

"Segregation in Lawrence, and most of the state as well, was ... by custom, not by law. So because it was by custom, it was something that was assumed everyone knew," said Kristine McCusker, associate professor at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn., whose 1994 master's thesis at KU was on the Civil Rights movement at KU.

Hispanics and American Indians also faced their own humiliation in Lawrence by being served last in restaurants or being followed in retail stores. But most sources interviewed for this article indicated that Hispanics and American Indians were not excluded or segregated by local businesses to the extent that blacks were.

"It's not clear whether or not (Hispanics and American Indians) were segregated," McCusker said. "When it's against the law but not against custom, it's difficult to tell what the practices are."

'Not allowed'

As he walks across the street from where Marshall Tyler Sr. cooked, James Barnes, a 72-year-old retired machinist for DuPont Co. and Flexel Corp., stops in front of a two-story red-brick building next to the historic First National Bank building.

He remembered going to the Velvet Freeze Ice Cream store, 742 Mass., with his six children in the 1950s.

"We weren't allowed to sit there," said Barnes of the parlor with tiny tables and an L-shaped counter. "That's just the way it was. I was young and that's what you did. You didn't rock the boat."

Whites who were born in the 1920s and 1930s, such as Helen St. Clair Buhler, 85, said they didn't think about segregation.

Buhler's grandfather, Jonathan Morgan, of the Massachusetts Emigrant Society, arrived in 1854 to help found Lawrence. She recalled growing up playing with black children.

When her black classmates at reunions talked about segregation, she would be shocked by their anger.

"They would say, 'We were friends, but if we went to the movies, we'd have to sit up in the balcony,'" Buhler said. "I didn't think anything about it. It had always just been that way."

Members of the Lawrence League for the Practice of Democracy began meeting as early as 1947 to discuss ending segregation and exclusion. They tried to convince and coax area businesses into integrating.

In the 1950s, KU Chancellor Franklin Murphy called on Lawrence businesses to serve all his students, said Rusty Monhollon, assistant professor of history at Hood College in Maryland and author of "This is America?: The Sixties in Lawrence, Kansas." If they wouldn't, Murphy said KU would set up businesses of its own and charge students a lot less for food or a haircut.

Denise Low-Weso describes how Langston Hughes responded to segregation.


And then there was Forrest "Phog" Allen, KU's legendary basketball coach from 1920 to 1956 who famously insisted Massachusetts Street businesses serve the equally legendary 7-foot-1 Wilt Chamberlain who played at KU from 1957 to 1958.

But what applied to one basketball player didn't apply to all.

"While most businesses did comply with Allen's request to serve Chamberlain," Monhollon said, "not all blacks were so treated."

Leonard Monroe, who worked as the city garage manager for 23 years and was a friend of Chamberlain, agreed.

"(Wilt) could go in those places and eat, but we still couldn't go into those places," said Monroe, 75, one of the first black varsity basketball players at LHS his senior year in 1950. "He might have helped, but he wasn't the whole reason, that's for sure."

By 1964, most outward signs of segregation in Lawrence, with some exceptions, were gone, Monhollon said.

National, state and a City Commission ordinance passed in March 1964 banned segregation or exclusion from public accommodations, such as restaurants, hotels, swimming pools, bowling alleys and theaters.

"Lawrence - like the rest of the nation - has always had a mix of people and attitudes about racial equality," Monhollon said. "There have been some who rejected any notion of racial equality, and some who were actively working for equality. Then there were a lot of people in the middle who thought racial equality was a desirable goal but disagreed over how it could, or should, be achieved."

Free State

The story of segregation in Lawrence stands out in contrast even more to some blacks and whites as the term "Free State" has become more popular in the past 20 years.

"Lawrence thinks of itself as THE city in Kansas, and much of that is due to its abolition history," Monhollon said. "And much of that has to do with the recent upsurge in the use of 'Free State.'"

If segregation is excluded as part of its identity, Lawrence will be celebrating a myth rather than reality, said Steve Jansen, director of Watkins Museum of History from 1979 to 2001.

"Lawrence doesn't think of itself as a traditional American community. It thinks of it as something different. But when it comes to race, it wasn't," he said. "It's not because Lawrence was bad. It's because Lawrence was like most American communities of that time."

But Lawrence's efforts to revitalize businesses and the historic sense of downtown while documenting its past are unique.

"This is a 'going' downtown that most communities would just give their teeth for," said Carol Francis, 74, who helped lead the effort to document and mark historic buildings along Massachusetts Street. "Ours is 'going.' It's going strong. And we need to keep it that way."

But the recollection of segregation brings out deep regret from the lifelong Lawrence resident who is the fourth owner of the Josiah Miller building at Seventh and Massachusetts streets, which survived Quantrill's 1863 raid on Lawrence.

"I feel terribly guilty. I think it's amazing we didn't figure out what was happening to these people. They're people. Everybody is people whether they're black, white, checkered or colored. They're just people and we didn't treat them like people," Francis said. "I think people need to be aware that this kind of thing was happening. And we let it happen. We allowed it to happen without recognition."

Lawrence as home

This isn't to say blacks in their 70s and 80s haven't moved past the bitterness they felt growing up in Lawrence.

They have told the stories about segregation and exclusion to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"You can get past it. But you never can forget it," said Irene Williams Southard, 73, a former licensed practical nurse at LMH from 1964 to 1972, who says she loves Lawrence.

"Anytime you've been hurt or shunned or made to feel inferior, that sticks with you."


littlelawrencian 11 years, 4 months ago

Yes, I remember in the late 70's, a bar downtown that catered to the Haskell students and any other minority especially African-Americans that made city hall nervous. The white ladies were nervous about walking in front of the bar, a man that wasn't white might talk to her! This is true because I saw it myself with my own eyes! I couldn't believe it! They didn't mind the Green Gables down on east side long as everyone stayed there. Actually, I miss the Gables, we had a lot of fun there.

Emily Hadley 11 years, 4 months ago

Let's all take a moment to be thankful for all of those people in the world who are more like the good doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. than they are like Marion, 'right_thinker', or 'mommy3'!!

People with compassion who will work for justice for others have done so much to make the world a better place for all of us.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King!

irishblues 11 years, 4 months ago

How well I remember the segregation growing up in the 60s. My best friend growing up was black, we slept nose to nose in the same bed more times than I can remember. Her family was large and treated me as I was one of her own, as did my mother with her. Her older brother was a black activist and dating a fair skinned red headed white girl. She was a photog at KU and took our picture walking home from school one day. My girlfriend and I were 8 or 10 at the time, grabbed each other around the neck and were cheek to cheek for several funny photos. The one she picked was printed in the UDK. My mother took a lot of heat for that picture. But we were North Lawrence Sandrats. Didn't care what they thought on "the other side of the bridge". Didn't know and didn't care, also didn't understand.... I also remember the Haskell students were not "let off" the "reservation" except every other Saturday. Then they would pour in to downtown. Woolworths would be packed with kids simply having a burger and a shake. White kids were told to stay out of downtown when "the indians were off".
I didn't understand this segregation until that photo hit and my mother had to explain it to me. Still did not make sense. She had always lead by example, never once making a snide remark, always a hand shake and a welcoming to whomever we saw.
I have, over the years, been told how much my mothers respect had meant to the parents of the black children. Also, the predjudice existing in Lawrence did not only apply to racial issues. My mother was a divorcee in the 60s. I encountered more than a few kids who could not play with me because I was "her" daughter. These events made me stronger and I am proud to remember my friends. They would be there for me today if I needed them, and I them. I could drone on,but you all get the point. I have a lot more experiences to share. I grew up with the little brothers of Pig Dowdell, and remember walking home from school after he was shot. The family still waved at me that day as I walked by their house like I did every day. God Bless Kindness in the Eye of the Storm. And I see now how blessed I am to have been a part of this era.

Kat Christian 11 years, 4 months ago

The article mentioned outward signs of segregation or better yet prejudice. The worse kind of prejudice is the hidden kind which a lot of people still have today. Now it is focused towards hispanics and still the Indians and blacks. I'm not referring to immigration and how people feel about this. That's a whole other story. But Americans born in this country or have obtained citizenship should have the same rights as whites. Afterall this country was built by the hands of many people of different color and nationalites. These people died for this country so it's not just a country for whites. The U.S. is a country for all who have sacrificed for it.

Kat Christian 11 years, 4 months ago

The article mentioned outward signs of segregation or better yet prejudice. The worse kind of prejudice is the hidden kind which a lot of people still have today. Now it is focused towards hispanics and still the Indians and blacks. I'm not referring to immigration and how people feel about this. That's a whole other story. But Americans born in this country or have obtained citizenship should have the same rights as whites. Afterall this country was built by the hands of many people of different color and nationalites. These people died for this country so it's not just a country for whites. The U.S. is a country for all who have sacrificed for it. That goes for Lawrence.

Kat Christian 11 years, 4 months ago

I remember when I was 10 (1960), living in Maryland, when I learned about segregation, but didn't know the words until the riots happened in DC when I was in my teens. My step-father was a mason and had a laborer named Moe. He would bring Moe home sometimes, but Moe would always sit on our front steps, he would never come into our home. My sister and I would sit with him and talk and he'd do magic tricks with coins. I remember he was so nice and so wise. We'd sit down to supper and mother would try and urge Moe to come in and have supper with us, but he would decline respectfully. I just couldn't understand it. So Mother would fix him a plate and bring it out to him. My sister and I would cram down our food to hurry out to sit with him. Once I stepped on a nail when he was there. I remember he came running and scooped me up and told my Mother to get some clean water and soap and some turpintine. He cleaned my wound and soaked it in turpintine then bandaged it. I'm sure he's passed by now and I know he's an angel perhaps he's my guardian angel now. I'd like to think so.
I will never understand prejudice and I will raise my grandson to feel the same. We are all God's children and of equal value no matter the color of our skin, the amount of weight we carry, or the appearance of our faces - we all have value.

Kat Christian 11 years, 4 months ago

At least in Lawrence blacks weren't made to walk in the gutter if a white person passed by as in the South. My Mother told me a story of when she was in Georgia. And older black gentleman was walking on the sidewalk with a cane. Mother was walking toward him. At that moment he steps on the sidewalk and began walking in the gutter. Mother went over to him and asked him why he did that. With his head lowered (no eye contact was allowed) he said that black (the "N" word used at that time) were not allowed to walk on the sidewalk the same time as whites - that they had to give up their space for the passing of whites. My Mother risked her life by leading that man from the gutter and walking him back onto the sidewalk and told him if he ever saw her on the sidewalk he did not have to move away that she was no better than he. Of course at the time Mother didn't understand that if she were noticed she could be beaten along with that man. But the point is that my Mother saw people for the value they are - through the eyes of God. Take a lesson folks.

misslawrence 11 years, 4 months ago

What a beautiful and a very touching story irish.....thanks for sharing.

oldgoof 11 years, 4 months ago

Marion: I think the pool hall sat on the east side of the 700 block of Mass.. I can't remember name though.

Mike Ford 11 years, 4 months ago

I find it interesting in a bad way how many of the minority-owned businesses in Lawrence have a hard time because they're priced out of areas where they could prosper. I find it interesting how when businesses that have a minority-lean to them try to come into Lawrence and they don't get a chance to establish themselves in a soldified manner. It doesn't seem like the Lawrence business community is very minority-oriented. I've been told of the Popeye's restaurant that was turned away from Lawrence some time ago. Economic segregation still exists. Money and opportunity is still dealt with by a glass ceiling and the powers that be who want to be able to control the exploitation of the economy without sharing it's dividends,

Taxpayer 11 years, 4 months ago

Exactly where in Lawrence did John Brown speak and where is the plaque located? Local historians, please help me with this!

Woodduck_5363 11 years, 4 months ago

Thanks littlelawrencian I too miss the Green Gables. I just you can say I cut my eye teeth there. But you know also that Nelson had the best food. Glad to know that there is someone else that remembers.

Jackalope 11 years, 4 months ago

Not to take away from Pogo's post on this subject, but only as a matter of information - Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294, 75 S.Ct. 753 (U.S. 1955), was not solely a Kansas case. It was a Supreme Court case in which five class action cases from lower federal courts were joined together because of similar issues. The five cases initially arose in Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, the District of Columbia and Delaware. The full caption of the case is: Oliver BROWN, et al., Appellants, v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA, Shawnee County, KANSAS, et al.; Harry BRIGGS, Jr., et al., Appellants, v. R. W. ELLIOTT, et al.; Dorothy E. DAVIS, et al., Appellants,v. COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD OF PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY, VIRGINIA, et al.; Spottswood Thomas BOLLING, et al., Petitioners, v. C. Melvin SHARPE, et al.; Francis B. GEBHART, et al., Petitioners, v. Ethel Louise BELTON, et al.

Mkh 11 years, 4 months ago

"Lawrence is becoming Boulder"

Yeah Right! LOL! If that were true I wouldn't have to move. The reality is Lawrence is becoming a third-rate version of Overland Park.

Jackalope 11 years, 4 months ago

Where did John Brown speak in Lawrence? John Brown probably spoke in many locations in old Lawrence. He and his sons arrived in Lawrence in December of 1955 to join in the defense of the city. He was given command of one of several companies of men for that defense. He soon became disgusted and left Lawrence when a the peace treaty was negotiated between the citizens of Lawrence, Territorial Governor Shannon, and the "Kansas Militia" which was about a thousand strong and of which only 200 or so were from Kansas - the rest from Missouri. The "war" revolved around a man who was rescued from the custody of the Douglas County Sheriff by a group of Lawrence men. It quickly turned into a major free-state/slavery-state conflict.

introversion 11 years, 4 months ago

It's my opinion that statements such as the one made by "logrithmic" are fine examples of inadvertent racism that still exist today. No, I'm not calling "logrithmic" a racist, but any time someone speaks about what the "African-Amercan community" or the "white community" or the "Native American Community" could or should do, even if it's in a positive light, is still a racist perspective. Any time people are organized by another on the basis of race, it's racism. We're all in this together. It bothers me to no end when I hear about how we're all the same regardless of skin color, and then I see headlines about scientific studies that certain things are more or less prevalent in "African-Americans," or any other race. It's these types of day-to-day subtleties that penetrate the subconscious. Either we're all the same, or we're not, and I say we are.

As for The subject of the newspaper's article, it's interesting, unfortunate, and completely valid. I agree that it's something that should be documented as well as all the things that we're proud of. All that being said, I feel like it's another instance that has made Lawrence the town it is today. There are much worse places to live.

As for comments about minority owned businesses having a "tough time," that's a cop-out. I agree with the fact that many, if not most small businesses in Lawrence have had a pretty tough go as of late. Playing the race card, and trying to suggest that there's a conspiracy to keep minority owned businesses out of Lawrence is racist bull. I feel like that's what is trying to be said without actually saying it.

Lastly, To "Taxpayer," I'm not sure where the plaque is located which is mentioned in the article, but to address your question separately, you might start by reading the plaque located just outside the door to the Free State Brewery.

Woodduck_5363 11 years, 4 months ago

Do you know that hanging on the wall in Free State Brewery is a picture of Mr. Harry Ponder ( a Black man)

Jackalope 11 years, 4 months ago

Oh, by the way, there is or was a plaque at 636 or near by on Massachusetts, close to or on the Free State Brewery building, where John Brown gave a speech about tactics to a group of armed Lawrence men when he was in Lawrence in September of 1856.

Woodduck_5363 11 years, 4 months ago

Well right-thinker I believe that is called the shoe is on the other foot

Bobo Fleming 11 years, 4 months ago

Sign on Happy Hals Cafe( very popular then ) "We reserve the right to refuse service to any customer." Translation- "No Colored" Blacks swam on Thursdays at the privately owned pool. Track meet between Eudora and Gardner. Our high jumper was being heckled by the Gardner coach. "Hey N N N N N your going to mess up N N N N." Our coach didn't say a word. My english teacher from MIssissippi. Told us when he ordered a phone the customer representative asked him if he wanted a "colored" phone. He thought she meant a segregated phone and didnt understand it. Then he realized that she was talking about a choice of colors for his phone.

mick 11 years, 4 months ago

Brunswich Billiards run by "Pappy."

mommy3 11 years, 4 months ago

MOVE ON!!! Everyone, blacks have had it bad. The Jews, the Indians, everyone. When I was 19, I was promoted to manager for a contract company of Sprint's. While, heading to a meeting I overheard one of my fellow employees (a black Woman) tell another black employee how she should have been manager, and she told how she was going to use the "Racist card" on our CSM. The CSM was fired a month later because the compnay was afraid after Sprint found out about the internal investagation, and they were afraid they would lose the contract. All she had to say was "I heard him use the "N" word" and innocent man lost his job. By the way She called he fellow black friends the N word all the time. WHAT?????? Move on, crap happened. I don't think any of it is right, but today's society is nothing like that. Blacks who weren't even born yet, Cry out for justice. My kids don't care what color you are, they don't bat an eye at it. WAKE up, move on. Blacks are carrying this on, they like having something to hold over our heads. When half of them could care less.

Terri Ferguson 11 years, 4 months ago

Hey Marion, I see you on here a lot, and am wondering what you do for a living. And were you previously a bussiness owner downtown? Just curious. Everyone seems to be all up in your business, and I feel out of the loop!

person184 11 years, 4 months ago

Rightie, The truth is only a perception in this case. What did you learn in your American History class? You need to open up to perspectives other than your own negative closed minded rhetoric.

mick 11 years, 4 months ago

marion- it was Brunswick Billiards downtown, run by Pappy. But I remember that there was a black man who worked there, racking balls fot the pool tables.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 11 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence was settled by abolitionist, however many abolitionist were anti-slavery, but still racists.

geekin_topekan 11 years, 4 months ago

Interesting photo for this story. How do Samuel L. Jackson and Neil Diamond fit into all this? Just wondering.

kujays4 11 years, 4 months ago

just wanted to get my 2 cents in, grew up in old west lawrence and remember 6th street as being the cut off. I could go to Pickney School but not the park behind it cuz too many black kids played there. I could eat at Michigan Street BBQ but couldn't have their daughter over to my house. Could play with Lisa C. at school, but not at my house. So when I married my "black" husband, my parents said it was to get back at them. I am sorry for all of the injustice, all of the IGNORANCE but really, if you are NOT black, you can't imagine the feelings, if you are NOT hispanic or native american, you just won't get it. It is important to teach our children that what matters MOST is being honest and caring for ALL of mankind.

james bush 11 years, 4 months ago

People should stop making a living promoting victimization!

james bush 11 years, 4 months ago

Ok, politcal statement, people should stop being liberals!

james bush 11 years, 4 months ago

Ok! last observation.........thank gawd MLK day is postponed by the weather!

Porter 11 years, 4 months ago

Welcome to Lawrence, Grand Wizard Jim. Now, go back to your cave and shove your burning cross. You're welcome to sing Freebird the whole way home.

mommy3 11 years, 4 months ago

I'm not saying it's not hard being black, but in todays world....who really doesn't have it hard???? I'm white but I run into people everyday who treat me like an idiot because I'm below their standards. LET IT GO!! I love history, and think all history is a wonderful thing to learn, but that's what it is HISTORY! We learn from it, we feel bad about allot of things in our history, but we move on. I hate the fact that Abraham Lincoln was shot dead, but do we track down every last decendant of the killer and shove it in their face how much we hate them for what happenned? No, we learn we admire lincoln for what he did, and we move on. Today, I don't know one place where blacks are not allowed. I'm not allowed into a black club, or I'll get stared at in a black church. There is racisim every where, for every race.

james bush 11 years, 4 months ago

I do respect MLK; I do not "honor" him! But, I can respect people who do honor MLK! I can respect people who honor others whom I do not honor BUT I wonder about people who pander to victims for a living!!!!

Grundoon Luna 11 years, 4 months ago

Pig Dowdell? I always thought it was Tiger Dowdell that got shot? Hmm . . .

And who are those that you support pandering to, Jim? Oil companies, financial giants, defense contractors, the richest of the rich - those who have very little need for somene to champion their cause. Instead of attacking those offering a hand to people that are down instead of kicking then, have an indpendent thought, why don't ya. Ther're very nice.

Woodduck_5363 11 years, 4 months ago




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