The 2017 National History Day theme is "Taking a Stand in History." Below are some potential topics that are related to this theme and can be researched using materials at Spencer Research Library.
This list isn't comprehensive. There are many, many other topics and collections you can investigate at Spencer!
Don't forget, we are happy to answer any questions you have and provide assistance with whatever topic you choose.
Unless otherwise noted, links are generally to finding aids or catalog records, documents created by librarians that provide information about a book, periodical, or archival collection.
Spencer Research Library has a sizable collection of primary sources on this topic, including correspondence, diaries and journals, books, maps, and newspapers. Most of these sources are from the free-state (or anti-slavery) perspective. Here are some specific research topics.
- John Brown promoted armed attacks as a means to end slavery and fought to make Kansas a free state. Spencer's holdings about the famous abolitionist include letters by and letters about him.
- The Kansas-Nebraska Act created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. Spencer has published speeches by Congressmen and Senators (e.g. Charles Sumner) speaking in favor of or against the legislation.
- The New England Emigrant Aid Company transported free-state settlers to Kansas. Spencer also has a microfilm copy of company papers held at the Kansas Historical Society.
- William Clarke Quantrill led a raid against Lawrence, Kansas, in August 1863. Spencer's collections include letters Quantrill wrote to his mother while he was a teacher in Territorial Kansas, arrest warrants issued for Quantrill and his followers after the raid, and letters by Andrew Williams and others who survived the attack on Lawrence.
- Spencer online exhibit, "Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence: Stories of Loss, Destruction and Survival."
- Website, Territorial Kansas Online.
Civil Rights Activists
Chester Lewis was a leader of the Modern Civil Rights Movement at both state and national levels. As leader of the Wichita NAACP, he volunteered his legal expertise to foster racial integration of the city's police and fire departments and its public schools.
Charles Scott was one of the plaintiff's lawyers in the landmark case Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
- Spencer online exhibit, "Charles S. Scott: Kansas Champion for Justice."
- Spencer online exhibit, “No Dreams Deferred: African American Leadership in the Kansas Region.”
- KU Libraries guide, “African American Rights Activities and Movements.”
Hilda Enoch and a small group of Lawrence, Kansas, parents founded The Children's Hour, Inc., providing preschool services to the town's at-risk children. The Children's Hour was also one of the first racially integrated nurseries in Lawrence.
Dorothy Hodge Johnson was a lifelong Kansas Citian and African American social activist.
- Spencer online exhibit, “Dorothy Hodge Johnson Papers from the Kansas Collection.”
Irish Rebellion against British Rule
Spencer Research Library is home to one of the most significant and sizable collections of materials about Irish history, literature, culture, and politics held outside of Ireland. Learn more about these holdings via the collection description, Library Guide, and online version of the exhibit “Easter 1916: Rebellion and Memory in Ireland.”
Land Use and Conservation
Residents of Lawrence, Kansas, have raised concerns about a proposed southern Lawrence bypass (highway). Of particular concern has been the environmental impact to the area, specifically the Baker Wetlands. Spencer's holdings about this topic include the papers of Agnes T. Frog and Clark Coan. See also All Things are Connected, a report submitted to the Federal Highway Administration by Haskell Indian Nations University (1994).
Bruce McKinney began his career as an activist in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) community during the 1960s while still a student in Coffeyville, Kansas. During college, he was active in Wichita State University's Student Homophile Association. After college McKinney continued his activism in the community and began his archive, collecting items of significance related to the LGBT community both in and outside of Kansas.
Kristi Parker has been an activist in the LGBT community of Kansas for most of her adult life. She has been active in Wichita Pride, Inc. and Kansans for Human Dignity. Parker has operated The Liberty Press, an LGBT news magazine, in Kansas since 1994.
Political, Legislative, and Legal Activism
Leo Gallagher was a defense attorney in California from the 1930s though the 1950s. He defended many who were considered radicals, specifically those involved with communism and labor issues.
Sherman Jones served as a Kansas State Legislator from 1988 to 2000. He advocated for social issues representing minorities’ rights, public health, and social welfare.
The MainStream Coalition is a political advocacy group organized in 1993 in Johnson County, Kansas. It was established over concerns about the separation of church and state, the growing influence of the Religious Right, and the rise of ultra-conservative politics in Johnson County, greater Kansas, and the United States.
James Pearson served as a Republican U.S. Senator from Kansas (1962-1978). Comfortable in the moderate and conservative camps, Pearson nevertheless was not shy in voting with liberal Democrats on issues that were to him a matter of conscience.
- Spencer online exhibit, "Shaping Kansas Politics: The African American Legislators."
Student Activism at the University of Kansas (Civil Rights and Vietnam War)
Sources in University Archives include:
- Publications like the Graduate Magazine, Jayhawker yearbook, and University Daily Kansan (KU student newspaper).
- Records of and journals published by Kansas University Students for a Democratic Society. Materials related to the national movement can be found in Spencer's Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements.
- Papers of Chancellors W. Clarke Wescoe and E. Laurence Chalmers, who led KU during the 1960s and 1970s.
- Photographs, many of which have been digitized and made available online.
- KU Libraries guide, African American Rights Activities and Movements: University Archives.
- Spencer blog entries, “We’re all going to jail, to jail”: The University and Civil Rights in 1965” and “Smoke and Fire: Political and Civil Unrest at the University."
- KU History articles, “We Shall Overcome,” “Fire and Smoke,” and “Prelude to Disorder."
- February Sisters topic, below under heading “Women’s Rights and Feminism.”
- Other examples of student activism at KU, e.g. protesting a campus visit by the Ku Klux Klan in 1988.
Sources in the Kansas Collection include:
- The records of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Kansas.
- Issues of the temperance periodical The American Issue.
- Proceedings of the Anti-Saloon League of America.
- Boys and Girls’ Temperance Text-Book, published by The National Temperance Society and Publication House.
- The Woman’s Temperance Advocate: Published Monthly in the Interest of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, Greensboro, N.C.
- Spencer blog entry, “Prohibition in Kansas."
Women’s Rights and Feminism
Members of the February Sisters, a women’s rights advocacy group at KU, staged a protest in 1972 as a “means of obtaining the resources to meet the pressing needs of women.” Additional sources about this protest can be found in the records of KU Chancellor E. Laurence Chalmers; see also digitized photographs of the event and the list of University Archives publications listed above.
Women for Racial and Economic Equality (WREE) worked to promote the end of race and sex discrimination in hiring, pay, and promotion practices, as well as quality integrated public education and federally funded comprehensive child care; peace and solidarity with women of all countries; passage of the Women's Bill of Rights; and legislative initiatives to guarantee economic independence and social equality. Spencer also has selected issues of the organization's periodical and newsletter.
- KU History articles, “Sisters Act” and “Department Recognizes the 40th Anniversary of the February Sisters.”