An NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop hosted by the Spencer Museum of Art

Landmark Sites

The Spencer Museum of Art's workshops will take advantage of the rich historic sites and educational resources in the northeast Kansas region. Below, you can find more information about some of the exciting places Summer Scholars will visit.  



Historical and Cultural Sites

Shawnee Indian Mission

Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site is a twelve-acre National Historic Landmark in Fairway, Kansas. It was founded as the Shawnee Manual Labor School by Methodist minister Thomas Johnson shortly after the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Like other mission schools, Shawnee Indian Mission sought to convert its students to Christianity as a way to assimilate them into Euro-American society. Native American children were forcibly relocated from across the nation to institutions like this one during the 19th and early 20th centuries. At the height of its activity, the mission was an establishment of more than 2,000 acres with 16 buildings, including the three large brick structures that still stand, and an enrollment of nearly 200 Native American boys and girls from the ages of five to 23. Classes were held six hours each day except Saturday and Sunday; on Saturday teaching was limited to three hours, and Sundays were spent in worship. The boys worked in the shop or on the farm, usually for five hours a day, while the girls helped with the sewing, washing, and cooking. The students, as a rule, went to bed at 8 p.m. and rose at 4 a.m. By its closure in 1862, hundreds of students from more than twenty tribes had attended the school, learning basic academic subjects, agricultural skills, and the tenets of Christianity.

At the Shawnee Indian Mission Historic Site, teachers will enjoy an outdoor guided walking tour of the grounds and extant buildings—which served as classrooms and dormitories—to learn about the early history of religiously-oriented Native American education in Kansas.

Haskell Institute/Haskell Indian Nations University

Haskell Indian Nations University is a National Historic Landmark that operates today as a tribal University but was founded as Haskell Institute, an Indian Industrial Training School in 1884. It is one of the earliest and largest government-run Native American boarding schools in the United States. The history of the school reflects U.S Indian policy at the time.

Haskell was founded during an era when the federal government thought it imperative for Native Americans to assimilate to the majority culture and believed the best method for doing so was to remove Native children from their families and cultures. Native American children were sent to boarding schools where they were forced to cut their hair, learn Christianity, stop practicing their Native religions, and forbidden to speak their Native languages. Oftentimes, students were subjected to physical abuse. Initially, the program focused on agricultural education in grades one through five, operating under a semi-military system where students wore uniforms, marched to classes, and exercised regularly. The early trades taught to boys included tailoring, wagon making, blacksmithing, harness making, painting, shoe making, and farming. Girls studied cooking, sewing, and homemaking. Later, Haskell Institute offered high school and post-high school courses, becoming first Haskell Indian Junior College and finally Haskell Indian Nations University. Through self-determination efforts by American Indian and Alaska Native communities, Haskell has developed innovative curricula oriented towards contemporary Native American and Alaska Native goals. Today, the Haskell Indian Nations University campus has 12 buildings that have been designated as U.S. National Historic Landmarks. 

Through an outdoor guided walking tour, teachers will explore significant historic structures including the memorial arch and football stadium, the Medicine Wheel, a student cemetery, and the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum. A second tour will focus on the exhibitions at the Cultural Center, which highlight the history of Haskell as told through archival photographs, artifacts, written documents, and cultural ephemera. Summer Scholars will then hear a lecture about experiences of students at Haskell and how Native communities coped with forced assimilation.


Nicodemus is the oldest and only surviving all-African American community west of the Mississippi River. It was settled by Exodusters—former slaves who migrated to Kansas during the Reconstruction Period following the American Civil War—and is now a registered National Historic Site that maintains five structures including the town hall, two churches, a hotel and a one-room schoolhouse. Nicodemus was founded in 1877 by a group of black men led by Rev. W.H. Smith, a black minister, and W.R. Hill, a white land developer. Together they formed the Nicodemus Town Company and began visiting churches in Kentucky to encourage formerly enslaved African Americans to move to Kansas. By the mid-1880s, Nicodemus was a bustling town with two newspapers, three general stores, a few hotels, a bank, and at least three churches. During its prime, the town’s population was estimated at 700.

While participating teachers will not travel to the Nicodemus site (which is over 4 hours away from Lawrence), they will hear about the town’s history through an interactive presentation from Angela Bates, an African American historian, activist, and descendent of Exodusters who settled the town. Bates will explain her efforts to have Nicodemus named a National Historic Site, share archival documents and photographs, and outline distance learning programs the Nicodemus Historical Society offers schools nationwide.

Brown v. Board of Education  National Historic Site

The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas hosts a myriad of resources relevant to the pivotal Supreme Court decision and its ramifications for U.S. education and society. This landmark case challenged the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools. In the 1950s, the Topeka National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) challenged an 1879 Kansas law that permitted racially segregated elementary schools in certain cities based on population. Topeka operated eighteen neighborhood schools for white children and only four for African American children. Thirteen parents volunteered to enroll 20 children at the closest neighborhood schools, rather than the designated African American schools. After each was refused admittance, the Topeka NAACP filed the case on their behalf. While the District Court found that segregation had a detrimental effect on African American children, they determined that black and white schools in Topeka were of equal quality and ruled in favor of the Board of Education, citing previous “separate but equal” laws. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and in 1954 was unanimously ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, a ruling that paved the way for integration and was a major victory for the NAACP and the Civil Rights Movement.

Teachers will navigate the site according to their own specific interests. They will have the opportunity to view the exhibitions “Education and Justice” and “The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education;” watch the 30-minute film Race and the American Creed; and spend time in the bookstore dedicated to publications that explore the court case, African American history, and Civil Rights. Deborah Dandridge, Dr. Kim Warren, and the core faculty will accompany participants to the site and stimulate discussion about the lasting effects of this case on education and race relations more generally.

Sumner High School Alumni Room

The Sumner High School Alumni Room is located in what is now the Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kansas City, Kansas. The Alumni Room documents the history of Sumner High School, the first and only racially segregated high school in Kansas.

Kansas high schools were legally required to be integrated until April 1904. However, in April of that year, a white student who attended Kansas City High School in Wyandotte County was shot and killed by an 18-year-old African American in a local park.The morning after the shooting, all African American students were blocked from entering the high school by white students and community members. The resulting racial tensions prompted both white and African American parents to campaign for local secondary-school segregation.  Citizens successfully petitioned Kansas legislature to change the law, allowing segregation and ultimately leading to the formation of the all-black Sumner High School in 1905, named for abolitionist Charles Sumner. It was not until 1978 that Sumner High underwent court-ordered desegregation, and the school lives on as Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences—a nationally ranked magnet school.

At the Alumni Room, teachers will delve into the achievements of Sumner’s students and the acclaim of its teachers and staff through yearbooks, student newspapers, and other memorabilia on display. These onsite resources impart the story of Sumner, which itself emphasizes the complexity of conversations and feelings about race in America. To unravel this multifaceted story further, archivist Deborah Dandridge will facilitate a panel discussion with Sumner alumni, including the founder of the Alumni Room, Chester Owens, Jr. This forum will immerse teachers in personal stories to help them understand not only the unique history of Sumner but also confront the ongoing ramifications of segregation and integration.

Other Sites


Since its founding in 1864, the University of Kansas (KU) has embodied the aspirations and determination of the abolitionists who settled on the curve of the Kaw River. The settlers' first goal was to ensure that the new Kansas Territory entered the union as a free state. Another was to establish a university. Today, KU has become a major public research and teaching institution of 28,401 students and 2,600 faculty on five campuses. Its diverse elements are united by their mission to educate leaders, build healthy communities, and make discoveries that change the world. The main campus in Lawrence tops Mount Oread. This long, curved limestone ridge was named by the town founders who for a decade endured bitter conflicts with pro-slavery factions from Missouri. A few months after the Civil War ended, KU was founded, opening in 1866. Since then, thousands of teachers, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, musicians, architects, engineers, and lawyers mastered their subjects here.

Located on the Lawrence campus of KU the Spencer Museum of Art offers a diverse collection of more than 40,000 art objects and works of cultural significance. Objects from 6 continents span the history of art from ancient to contemporary. Areas of special strength include Native American art; photography; European and American painting, sculpture, and prints; Japanese Edo-period painting and prints; and modern and contemporary African sculpture, painting, and decorative arts. The Spencer Museum’s vision is to present its collection as a living archive that motivates object-centered research and teaching, creative work, and transformative public dialogue. The Spencer Museum facilitates arts and engagement and research through exhibitions, artist commissions and residencies, conferences, film screenings, musical and dramatic performances, artist- and scholar-led lectures, children’s art activities, and community arts and culture festivals. The Spencer Museum of Art is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and participates in the Association of Art Museum Directors.

As the host institution, the Spencer Museum will serve as the site for some of the lectures, film screenings, and curricular strategy seminars. Participants will also enjoy a guided tour and have the opportunity to study works of art from the collection, including those on view in the special exhibition Separate and Not Equal: A History of Race and Education in America.


The Kenneth Spencer Research Library is the rare books, manuscripts, and archives library of the University of Kansas that serves researchers and scholars from around the world. The library is home to Special Collections (established in 1953), the Kansas Collection (founded before the turn of the century by the university's first librarian, Carrie Watson), and the University Archives (established in 1969). The Kenneth Spencer Research Library was dedicated on November 8, 1968 and opened to the public a month later. The building is equipped with ample reading rooms, stacks, and staff quarters, allowing the university to bring together the previously scattered special collections acquired over its first century and to pursue the growth of the collections and the establishment of new services. Today, the Spencer Research Library connects scholars in varied disciplines with information that is critical to their research, while providing excellent services in a welcoming and comfortable environment. They continue to build outstanding collections of materials, ranging from the documents of ordinary life in Kansas, to stunning illuminated manuscripts, to exciting images of our university. 

Summer Scholars will convene in the Spencer Research Library’s Johnson Reading Room for an afternoon, where they will hear from Deborah Dandridge, Archivist for the African American Experience Collection. Ms. Dandridge will share primary sources documenting Brown v. Board, the Kansas Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, and African American schools in Kansas (including the Lincoln, Monroe, and Washington Schools). Teachers will also have time to look through the Spencer Research Library’s collections, which include not only the African American Experience Collection but also a History of American Education Archive.


The Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1974 and continues to collect and preserve the history of African Americans in the Midwest. The collections, educational programs, and research services, and special projects facilitate both scholarly inquiry and public understanding of African American history. The Black Archives offers itself as an educational resource as well as a repository of every facet in African American culture; music, art, theater, education, the military, medicine, sports, religion and community affairs. The Black Archives was expressly created to collect and preserve the history of African Americans in the Midwest. Beyond its original emphasis of research and critical examination, the Archives' traveling exhibits personify the roles of African Americans and their plight to dispel negative images. Its interpretive and educational programs, research services and special projects have received overwhelming community support.

Summer Scholars will visit the Black Archives of Mid-America to learn more about incorporating primary sources into classroom teaching and to research its collections for curriculum projects.

Dates of Workshop Sessions

Session I: June 18-24, 2017 

Session II: July 9-15, 2017

Contact Information

Cassandra Mesick Braun, Project Co-Director: | 785-864-6794

Celka StraughnProject Co-Director: | 785-864-0136

Sydney PurselProject Intern: | 785-864-5253

The University of Kansas
Spencer Museum of Art
1301 Mississippi Street
Lawrence, KS 66045  | 785-864-4710

Spencer Museum of Art University of Kansas

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
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