2002autumn_leiker - Race Relations in the Sunflower State...

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K ANSAS H ISTORY “I guess Kansas is getting like the South, isn’t it, ma?” Sandy said to his grandmother as they came out on the porch that evening after supper. “They don’t like us here either, do they?” But Aunt Hager gave him no answer. In silence they watched the sunset fade from the sky. Slowly the evening star grew bright, and, looking at the stars, Hager began to sing, very softly at first: From this world o’trouble free, Stars beyond! Stars beyond! . . . There’s a star fo’ you an’ me, Stars beyond! 1 The boy “Sandy” and his grandmother are fictional characters. Yet the Kansas sunsets that the author describes are real—as real as the evening stars that have inspired millions of people who called the place “home,” the same stars that con- temporary Kansans continue to honor in their state motto. 2 From his family’s house at 732 Alabama Street in Lawrence during the early 1900s, the creator of Sandy and Aunt Hager had much opportunity to enjoy Kansas’s admirable stars and sunsets but also to endure some of its less admirable racial qualities. The au- thor was Langston Hughes, the famed poet and novelist of the Harlem Renais- James N. Leiker i s an assistant professor of History at Johnson County Community College. He earned his B.S. and M.A. at Fort Hays State University and his Ph.D. in U.S. social history at the University of Kansas. Leiker’s articles on race and the American West have appeared in Kansas History , Great Plains Quarterly , and Western Historical Quarterly . His book, Racial Borders: Black Soldiers along the Rio Grande was 1. Langston Hughes, Not Without Laughter: A Novel (1930; reprint, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1969; paperback edition, 1995), 201–2. 2. Ad astra per aspera (“To the stars through difficulties”). by James N. Leiker E DITORS ’I NTRODUCTION In a fine addition to this series evaluating existing histories and suggesting new directions histori- ans might take, Professor James N. Leiker tackles one of the most im- portant yet least understood topics in Kansas history. Race, in a sense, has defined Kansas from the start. Nevertheless, as Leiker points out, Kansans seem largely unaware of their racial past. Clearly, Kansas society has been structured by race. Yet, until recently, historians ignored that fact. Many people wanted African Americans barred from the state. School segregation was wide- spread in Kansas even where it was not legal, and blacks were ex- cluded from some but not all pub- lic institutions. Not only has soci- ety been structured by racial inequality, but there also were powerful overt manifestations of racism in the Wyandotte Constitu- tion, in some aspects of the re- sponse to the Great Exodus, in the activities of Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, and in the more recent ac- tivities of the Posse Comitatus. Race Relations in the
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This note was uploaded on 12/20/2010 for the course POLT 605 taught by Professor Schumaker during the Spring '98 term at Kansas.

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2002autumn_leiker - Race Relations in the Sunflower State...

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