Lawrence City Commission to consider creating review process for evaluation of historic markers

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016

City leaders will soon consider setting up a new process for reevaluating historic markers and creating new ones.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider designating the Historic Resources Commission as the recommending body for reevaluation and consideration of historic markers. The topic is before the commission as cities across the U.S. have removed statues of historic figures that enslaved people or otherwise supported racist ideas, and the city itself is in receipt of its third request in the past year regarding a historic marker.

“Cities across the country are currently evaluating the appropriateness of existing historical markers and whether additional markers should be established,” a city staff memo to the commission states.

The request is before the commission following a letter from the brother of Harry Nicholas “Nick” Rice, who is requesting that a marker be placed on the spot where Rice was killed 50 years ago. Rice, who was 18 at the time of his death, was killed on July 20, 1970, after a Lawrence police officer fired into a crowd of protesters on the University of Kansas campus. Rice, who was white, was killed four days after Rick “Tiger” Dowdell, a Black 19-year-old, was shot and killed by Lawrence police. The killings came amid a summer of anti-war, civil rights and other protests that were at times destructive and resulted in citywide curfews.

The request for a marker from Rice is the third request regarding historic markers in the past year. As the Journal-World has previously reported, the NAACP is in the process of creating a memorial for the lynching of three Black men that occurred in Lawrence in 1882. Another group is asking that changes be made to the monument in Robinson Park, which is dedicated to the settlers of Lawrence. The monument was made out of the Shunganunga boulder, which was a sacred prayer rock for the Kanza tribe. Both of those projects are ongoing.

If approved by the commission, HRC would become the initial body to review requests for new historic markers, memorials or monuments and to reconsider any markers “that may need historical evaluation,” according to the memo. The HRC would then make a recommendation to the commission, which would make the ultimate decision.

The City Commission will convene virtually at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, with limited staff members in place at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The city has asked that residents participate in the meeting virtually, if they are able to do so, using temporary meeting procedures put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Directions for submitting public comment and correspondence are included in the meeting agenda that is available on the city’s website, lawrenceks.org.

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