Past and Present

Three Wichita State history professors, Drs. Robin Henry, Robert Weems, and Jay Price, will talk about Wichita history, parallels between current events and historical happenings, and how historical events got us to where we are today.

Past & Present is also available through iTunes. Listen or subscribe here.

ReverbNation

Last Sunday, a memorial service took place for Harry Dobbin, a member of the bands Sawdust Charley and the Funtones. He was also the graphic artist who made possible the recent book on Wichita rock & roll from 1950-1980. I still remember the work he did to arrange all the elements for the cover. Dobbin joins the ranks of so many Wichita rock figures who have recently passed.

On September 12, 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that states are bound by the court’s decisions and must enforce them, even if the states disagree. This decision in Cooper v. Aaron followed four years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that ordered public schools desegregated.

Today, Planeview and Hilltop Manor in south Wichita are reminders of a time when World War II aircraft production required the creation of workers’ housing. Designed to be temporary, these communities have lasted well beyond their expected lifespans. Aging facilities and changing demographics remain challenges for residents, landowners, and local officials.

Wichita, during the mid-20th century, was a city where African Americans were blatantly discriminated against in downtown commercial spaces. For instance, black moviegoers were forced in sit in the balcony of downtown theaters.

Another form of racial bias experienced by black Wichitans during this period occurred in downtown department stores. While local African Americans were allowed to purchase products from these businesses, they were not allowed to sit and eat at their lunch counters.

On July 24th 1959, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev took the Cold War into the kitchen. Later referred to as the Kitchen Debate, the heated conversation took place in the American exhibition in Moscow, at the U.S.-Soviet Cultural Agreement, a program of mutual, cultural exchange meant to promote understanding and friendship between the two nations. 

In May 1871, Wichita founder James Mead famously led a team of horsemen out to divert a cattle drive from going through Park City, returning the cattle trail to its original route by Wichita. The drovers had planned to go west of Wichita up to Brookville because of the efforts of Henry Shanklin, an agent with the Kansas-Pacific railroad. While the so-called “four horsemen” are celebrated as local heroes in Wichita, Shanklin often gets dismissed as the one who failed. However, his story is just as interesting.

 

For much of American history, gold and silver were directly linked with the country’s currency. Memories of the hyper-inflation associated with the circulation of fiat “Continental Dollars” during the Revolutionary War prompted a long-standing belief that “sound money” consisted of paper dollars linked with gold and coinage created from silver.

Every June, I leave Wichita to score US AP History exams for seven days. In a digital age, this is a thoroughly analogue event. This year, more than 450,000 high school students took the four-hour exam and produced more than 2.5 million essays. These essays are handwritten, with words and phrases scratched out and arrows directing you to where the “real” second paragraph can found on page four.

Wichita can be considered the “bumblebee city.” If the bumblebee is the insect that should not be able to fly but does, Wichita is the city that shouldn’t be here but is. A visitor to the area in 1871 would have been well advised to bet on Newton, on a major transcontinental route, as the dominant community of the area. 

Horace Cort / AP

Most Americans are probably aware of the famous August 28, 1963, March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his immortal “I Have A Dream” speech. Far fewer citizens are aware of his advocacy of a second march on Washington planned for April 1968.

Pages