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A Preliminary Call for Community Volunteers to Serve as Document Readers
Great News
Class to teach research methods, explore Wichita’s Black history
First Focus Group – A Real Success!


Date: January 30th, 2009
Re: A Preliminary Call for Community Volunteers to Serve as Documents Readers

The Research on Black Wichita (ROBW) project announces tentative planning to launch a Task Force on Blacks and Wichita Public School Education during February of 2009. With approval of a Community Heritage Grant by the Kansas Humanities Council, the goal of this community-wide initiative is to examine the historical relationships between Wichita's Black community and the city's public schools. In collaboration with several social agencies and institutions, ROBW has received authorization to study Wichita Board of Education Meeting Archives from 1873 through 1958. Because these archives are normally stored at the Underground vaults in Hutchinson KS, Task Force members and community volunteers will have access to these documents at Wichita State University in the Special Collections Reading Room, Ablah Library. Community volunteers will be recruited and trained to serve as Document Readers for this project during February, 2009, and the overall Task Force is expected to required six months for completion.

The underlying purpose of the Task Force is to develop a fuller understanding of how past decisioning by the Wichita Board of Education may have informed educational policies and practices leading up to the primary time from of the ROBW, which is 1945 to 1958. A formal announcement concerning Task Force start date, community volunteer recruitment, and orientation date will follow this preliminary announcement in several weeks.

Sponsoring and /or Support Agencies include:

For additional information, contact:



Great News!

Our Community Heritage Grant proposal has been approved by the Kansas Humanities Council for the full amount of our request ($3,500.00).  Thank you for all of your support and contribution in making this possible.

 Please have a Blessed, Joyous and Safe Holiday Season.

Galyn A. Vesey, Ph.D., Project Director ROBW



Class to teach research methods, explore Wichita’s Black history

November 6, 2008

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College students will have a chance this spring to help give the gift of history to Wichita’s Black community.

Under the supervision of Wichita social scientist Galyn Vesey, an adjunct instructor at Bethel, students will contribute to the Research on Black Wichita project, which Vesey directs, by collecting data through document searches and other research methods. The specific time period in question is 1945-58.

“An underlying theme here is that history is socially interrelated by both people and ideas,” Vesey says. “We feel differently about ourselves when we find out how and why things happen, or why they may not. We take action, or we don’t, based on our knowledge of history.”

The period from 1945-58 was “the segregation era” in Wichita and there is little documentation on Wichita’s Black community at that time, Vesey says. Research on Black Wichita (ROBW) has a goal of bringing to life the areas in the city where most Black businesses and organizations thrived, which will require going through boxes of documents from archives, cemeteries and possibly even the Hutchinson salt mines, where municipal records are stored.

When Vesey took on ROBW, he says, people said to him, “This is massive. Do you know what you’ve gotten yourself into?”

“I can’t speak enough volumes about John Sheriff [Bethel executive vice president for institutional development] and his support for me personally and professionally,” Vesey says. “It was his idea to have a class.”

The course Black Wichita: 1945-1958 is designed as a collaborative-inquiry seminar for undergraduate students and is also aimed at members of the community interested in historical research. Vesey and his assistant, Sarah Price, a graduate student in public history at Wichita State University, have designed the course to be 10 percent lecture, 40 percent discussion and the rest lab – primary materials research for ROBW.

Vesey’s hope for the class is to go beyond giving students hands-on research experience while getting some help with ROBW. “A basic principle of education that doesn’t ever get old is [to give students the chance] to learn about different people without giving up the strengths they have,” he says. “This project is not about lambasting white people. It will only focus on race and racism, in a direct or explicit sense, as it is necessary. I want to dwell on the strengths and what was accomplished [by the Black community in Wichita] in spite of poverty and segregation.

“For example, how many people know that there was an all-black professional baseball team in Wichita [in the 1920s]? That shows what can happen even in the worst times. It helps me feel different about myself and what we can accomplish as a people.”

He also hopes to bring recognition to the many unsung heroes and heroines of Black Wichita history. As part of the sit-in at Dockum Drug in Wichita in 1958, the first organized sit-in for the purpose of integrating a segregated business establishment, Vesey says he has been enjoying the 50-year anniversary recognition.

“It’s nice to be recognized for one’s accomplishments,” he says, “but there were so many others who were part of the history of Black Wichita [whose names aren’t known]. For example, there were adults who organized social activities for young people and who ended up instilling values like the importance of education, community and faith in God. There are a lot of people, many of whom are deceased now, who were never recognized for their unselfish roles in the community as volunteers or as mentors, or perhaps as someone who simply encouraged local youth.”

Though it is several years down the road, the tangible product of ROBW is intended to be a book that Bethel College will help publish.

“I hope that the research for this class, and ultimately the book, will renew interest in local Black history as well as pride in the Black community and our accomplishments as a people,” Vesey says. “People who get national recognition all came from a local community and there are people who mentored and nurtured them along the way.

“We can all – not just me – leave something for Wichita that is perhaps more valuable than money: a sense of who we are as a people.”

Black Wichita: 1945-1958 will meet Tuesday and Thursday afternoons beginning Feb. 3, 2009. To learn more about Research on Black Wichita (ROBW), see the project’s Web site at For more information about the class, contact Dr. Vesey at 316-685-1174 or For questions about enrollment, call the Bethel College Office of Admissions, 1-800-522-1887 ext. 230 or 316-284-5230 or e-mail

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

Source: Bethel College. (2008). Institutional Communications, North Newton, KS.



First Focus Group – A Real Success!

ROBW project staff announces that the initial focus group was a pleasant surprise in terms of the quality of content received, and in terms of the spirited enthusiasm demonstrated by the participants. Hosted by the North Heights Christian Church on September 18, 2008, the topic of the initial focus group was Former Pupils of All-Black Wichita Public Schools. This focus group consisted of four (4) participants ranging in age from 86 to 91, including two females and two males. One male attended L’Ouverture Elementary (1927 – 1935); one male attended Douglass Elementary (1923-1931) and he walked to L’Ouverture for special vocational classes; and both female participants attended the Eighteenth Street School (which was a one-room school) – one female for two years (1923-1925) and one female for three years (1923-1926) and both female participants transferred to L’Ouverture where they remained through the eighth grade. Perhaps a highlight of this meeting is that one female participant sang the L’Ouverture school song entitled: L’Ouverture Will Shine Tonight. The purpose of this focus group was to collect information which might be useful background material in the Introductory Chapter of the proposed project book publication.



The following notice has expired but present for information only...

To all churches, social agencies and organizations, and community groups

Re: Request for Focus Group Participants

This is an urgent request for former pupils who attended at least one of the segregated public Black schools in Wichita, Kansas between the years 1912 to 1927, and who would like to participate in a focus group to discuss their perceptions and experiences on what it was like attending an all Black school during the early years of Wichita’s history.

Eligible participants will have attended one or more of the following schools:

Interested participants should be willing to interact with other former pupils in what should be a friendly and interesting discussion by several of Wichita’s “Black Pioneers!” There is no fee for participation, and interested participants must register by Monday, August 25, 2008 in order to qualify for this project.

For more information, please contact or write to the Research on Black Wichita (ROBW) project:
Galyn A. Vesey, PhD.
Project Director ROBW
P.O. Box 20034
Wichita KS 67208
Tel: (316) 685-1174
Thank You