African American Human Rights Activities and Movements: Kansas Collection

This subject guide provides information on selected primary resources held at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas for the study and teaching of African American human rights activities and movements.


The Kansas Collection is the regional history division of the University of Kansas Libraries. The Collection provides researchers with primary source materials that document the history of Kansas and the region. The African American Experience in Kansas and the region is a major area of focus, with the legacy of African American individuals, families, businesses, churches, and schools documented through substantial collections of correspondence, photographs, organizational, educational and business records, books, pamphlets and newspapers. 

Background and History

Overt discrimination governed our nation's race relations and routinely limited the educational, economic, and socio-political opportunities of African Americans for more than a century. In the Kansas region, African American communities, leaders, and interracial organizations played important roles in breaking down these barriers, particularly in the role as lead plaintiffs in the 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision. They continued to be leaders of the Modern Civil Rights Movement. The achievements won by these activists laid the groundwork for today's efforts to fulfill our nation's ideals of freedom, equality and justice for all. 

Kansas Collection

This subject guide provides information on selected primary resources from the Kansas Collection held at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas for the study and teaching of advocacy of African American rights. 

  • 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court Decision
    • Charles S. Scott Collection:  Kansas played a lead role in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision that revolutionized the legal foundation for racial segregation in our nation. Mr. Scott served as the lead attorney for the Kansas case in the NAACP's momentous challenge to public school segregation by race. This collection includes Mr. Scott's correspondence and legal papers related to the Kansas case.  
  • Local Interracial Organizations for African American Rights
    • Elmer Rusco Collection:   This collection includes reports from interracial committees in Kansas and national CORE publications from the late 1940s to the 1950s. These materials document the activities and research of Professor Rusco, a native of Wichita, Kansas who was a civil rights activist, professor and author. 
    • Lawrence League for the Practice of Democracy (1945-1965):  Organized in Lawrence in 1945, LLPD's mission was to eliminate racial discrimination in the city's movie houses and restaurants. They also joined efforts of CORE and other civil rights organizations challenging racial discrimination in access to local housing and swimming pools. 
  • Kansas Leaders of the Modern Civil Rights Movement
    • Chester I. Lewis Collection: A native of Hutchinson, Kansas, Lewis was a leader of the state and national NAACP from 1955 to 1968. He was also among the leaders of the "Young Turks", a national movement within the NAACP that sought to shift the organization's focus on seeking changes through court action and legislation to include strategies of non-violent protest and direct action. When the "Young Turks" movement failed, he resigned from the NAACP and endorsed the Black Power Movement. In 1983, Mr. Lewis was among four lawyers who successfully led a class action lawsuit on behalf of African Americans who experienced past racial discrimination in the employment as train porters. 
    • Samuel C. Jackson Collection: Jackson was a local and national leader of the NAACP. In March 1965, as president of the NAACP in Topeka, Kansas, he led a sympathy march in protest of police brutality against civil rights advocates in Selma, Alabama. The activists tried to march across Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge to reach Montgomery to protest against the exclusion of African Americans from their right to vote in Alabama. In May 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Mr. Jackson to serve as one of the original members of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 
  • Lawrence in Turmoil
    • John Thomas Johnson Collection: John Thomas Johnson worked as a freelance reporter, primarily for the Topeka Capital-Journal, and as a stringer for Time magazine, the Wichita Eagle-Beacon, the Kansas City Star-Times, and United Press International. This collection includes notes compiled while he was reporting in Lawrence, Kansas, 1970, and outlines, notes, etc., for a proposed book to be jointly authored with James P. Girard. 

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Contact Information

For additional information about Spencer's African American Experience Collections please contact:

Deborah Dandridge: Field Archivist and Curator