NATIVE AMERICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN EDUCATION IN KANSAS, 1830-1960
An NEH Landmarks of American History of Culture Workshop
Join us as we explore the intricacies and legacies of attitudes toward race in America by engaging with people and places invested in keeping the histories of racial segregation and integration alive in today's classroom.
Introduction to the Workshops
The Spencer Museum of Art invites you to visit historic sites, view works of art, and examine primary sources to better understand the history of racial discrimination in American education. To provide focus to this complex topic, our workshops will center on the educational experiences of Native Americans and African Americans in Kansas and will be guided by a diverse and engaging group of expert scholars, artists, and community leaders and activists.
Kansas provides ideal location for exploring the history of racial inequality in American education. As historian and keynote lecturer Kim Warren notes, Kansas “has long been at the geographic and ideological center of battles over freedom, citizenship, equality, and education.”1 In the 19th century, Kansas served as a crossroads for Indigenous communities, abolitionists, free African Americans, and Euro-American homesteaders. This diverse population led to the development of equally diverse educational systems, including mission, boarding, and residential schools for American Indians and segregated schools for African American students. We will explore these educational institutions by visiting fascinating historic sites in northeast Kansas, including:
- Shawnee Indian Mission, a 12-acre National Historic Landmark that operated in the mid-1800s to provide academic and agricultural training to hundreds of American Indian students from more than twenty tribes, most of whom were forcibly removed from their tribes to attend;
- Haskell Institute (as preserved on the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University), one of the first federally-funded boarding schools for Native American students in the United States;
- Nicodemus, the only remaining all-African American settlement west of the Mississippi River that was founded in 1877 by “Exodusters,” the term used to describe the thousands of former slaves who migrated to Kansas from the south after Reconstruction;
- Sumner High School, the first segregated high school in Kansas, which operated as an all-Black school from 1905-1978;
- The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, which traces the history and ongoing ramifications of this landmark court case in which Kansas became the epicenter of the national battle to eradicate school segregation in the United States
In addition to engaging with historic sites, we will be using rich archival and artistic collections at the Spencer Museum of Art, the Spencer Research Library, and the Black Archives of Mid-America to inform our workshops. All of these resources foreground the lived experiences and Native American and African American students and their families so we can appreciate how these often marginalized and underrepresented voices complicate and enrich idealized notions of United States history.
Chronologically, our workshops will concentrate on a period from about 1830-1960. This period begins with the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which led to the resettlement, typically by force and mandate, of Native Americans from east of the Mississippi River into the newly formed “Indian Territory” to the west. This massive relocation effort led to death of thousands of American Indians and laid the groundwork for the “civilizing” missions of religious and government officials, culminating with Captian Richard H. Pratt’s now-famous 1892 mandate to “Kill the Indian, and Save the Man.” We will culminate our workshops by discussing the landmark Brown v. Board of Education court case and its immediate aftermath, which fed the Civil Rights Movement.
Please use the links at the top of the page to learn more about the workshops. We hope to see you in Lawrence, Kansas this summer!