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Selected Topics

Student protests at KU,
National Vietnam Moratorium Day,
October 15, 1969.

Call Number: RG 71/18.

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.

Bleeding Kansas: Settling the Slavery Question in the Territory

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. 

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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.

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Community Activists

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.

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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).

Members of Save the Tall Grass Prairie and the Prairie National Park Natural History Association helped create Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas.

LGBT Activists

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.

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Student Activism at the University of Kansas (Civil Rights and Vietnam War)

Sources in University Archives include:

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The Temperance Movement: Fighting to Restrict Alcohol

Sources in the Kansas Collection include:

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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.

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