African American Human Rights Activities and Movements: University Archives

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 University Archives is the repository for the records documenting the history of the University of Kansas. Included are records and photographs relating to student activities and organizations, chancellors, faculty, athletics, and campus buildings. Those areas relating to African American human rights activities and movements are explained in the boxes below.

Background and History

Before the well known protests of the 1960s, African American students were concerned with combating racial discrimination with integration. A large group with members from the KU organization of CORE and members of the Henley House held a sit-in at a local cafe on April 15, 1948. At the time, the Kansas Union was the only place on campus that served African Americans and it closed at 7 p.m. After the sit-in, other attempts were made at integrating Lawrence's restaurants but they were largely unsuccessful.  

Then beginning in the 1960s no setting was more receptive to the politics of change than university and college campuses across America. Campus unrest gripped hundreds of campuses from coast to coast. The University of Kansas was no exception then and continues to experience student activism today. During the turbulent years of 1965-1970, KU students were passionately involved with the politics, ideas, and conflicts of the larger world. Protests centered on civil rights, the Vietnam War, and gender equality.

Student Organizations

The University Archives houses photographs, documents, and scrapbooks, among other items related to Student Organizations. Below are a list of organizations that relate to activism for African American civil rights at the University.  

  • Black Student Union [RG 67/13] and [RG 67/327]

The BSU was created in 1968 [RG 67/13] as an organization dedicated to the needs and desires of black people at KU. They published their own newspaper, The Harambee [UA Ser  67/13/3]; and presented Chancellor Chalmers with a list of demands in 1970. However, the group disbanded in the early 1970s. In 1978, black students formed a new BSU [RG 67/327] that still operates today. 

  • Civil Rights Council [RG 67/20]

The CRC was involved in several protests including the Civil Rights Housing Picket, Fair Housing Sit-In and March in 1965. They presented a list of demands to Chancellor Wescoe during these protests. 

  • Congress on Racial Equality [RG 67/708]

The KU chapter of CORE preceded the main civil rights activism of the 1960s and 1970s. They were concerned with combating racial discrimination off campus in Lawrence and held a sit-in at a local cafe on April 15, 1948. 

  • Selected Chronology of Political Protests and Events in Lawrence, 1960-1973 by Clark H. Coan [RH D7498]. 
  • Young Women's Christian Association [RG 67/32]

In the mid-1940s the YWCA initiated the first interracial undergraduate house for women in the University's history. The action caused controversy at a time when both the University and the Lawrence community still sanctioned various forms of segregation. 

  • The Young Women's Christian Association in the field of race relations at the University of Kansas by Mary Wisner Lees. [UA D423]

Student Activities

  • Student Protests [RG 71/18]

Included in the general group are chronological records: fliers, news releases, and other material relating to the history of student protests at the University of Kansas and across the country.   

Photographs may also be requested. Student protest photographs have been digitized and are part of KU Libraries' Digital Collections


  • Office of the Chancellor: 
    • Clarke Wescoe [RG 2/12] In 1965, there was a sit-in in the Chancellor's office to protest racial discrimination by University affiliates. The students were arrested and suspended, though Wescoe reinstated them the next day.
    • E. Laurence Chalmers [RG 2/13] Chalmers served as Chancellor from 1969-1972 during one of KU's most violent and turbulent periods.
  • Executive Secretary to the Chancellor
    • Case Files [RG 2/0/1/1]: Civil Rights Demonstration (box 9); Student Protest (box 11).
  • Office of the Dean of Men [RG 52/0]
    • Correspondence- Subject Files: CORE (box 2) 1948/49-1949/50
    • Deans Woodruff & Alderson Correspondence- Subject Files: (box 19-20) 1921-1974
  • Office of the Dean of Women [RG 53/0]
    • Dean Taylor's Correspondence- Chronological (box 1) 1952/53-1965/66
    • Records- Chronological Files (box 2-4) 1966/67-1973/74
    • Records- Subject Files (box 6-10) ca. 1921-1978


Theses and Dissertations

A list follows of theses and dissertations related to African Americans, Civil Rights Movement, and student activism at the University of Kansas.

  • Adams, Will W. Student Political Leadership at Kansas University. Call number: Thesis 1954 A324.
  • Bosnak, Kristine Ann. University Daily Kansan Coverage of the Ku Klux Klan Controversy at the University of Kansas During the Spring 1988 Semester. Call number: Thesis 1993 B652.
  • Fisher, Michael P. The Turbulent Years: The University of Kansas in 1970. Call number: Thesis 1979 F535.
  • Johnson, Ronald Eugene. Student Unrest and the Kansas Press: Editorial reaction to Violence in Lawrence and at the University of Kansas in 1970. Call number: Thesis 1982 J636.
  • McCusker, Kristine M. 'The Forgotten Years' of America's Civil Rights Movement: The University of Kansas 1939-1961. Call number: Thesis 1994 M338.
  • Monhollon, Rusty L. 'Away From the Dream': The Roots of Black Power in Lawrence, Kansas, 1960-1970. Call number: Thesis 1994 M665
  • Poore, Larry D. An attitudinal Study at the University of Kansas Concerning the Alleged Bases of Campus Dissent. Call number: Thesis 1970 P667.
  • Reagan-Kendrick, Amber. Ninety Years of Struggle and Success: African American History at the University of Kansas, 1870-1960. Call number: Dissertaion 2004 Reagan-Kendrick.

Personal Papers

Contact Information

Rebecca Schulte,

University Archivist


Research Help

Ask a Librarian

We can help with your research questions -- contact us by chat, phone, email, text or at a Research Help desk.