African-Americans in Kansas are being encouraged to promote “A New Black Friday” and share their family histories on the day or weekend after Thanksgiving.
The Kansas African American Affairs Commission issued a release last week encouraging families to talk with older neighbors, grandparents, aunts and uncles about memories and then write an essay of 500 to 700 words and submit it to the commission before Jan. 1.
The website, https://www.kaaac.ks.gov/ks-black-history/a-new-black-friday-project-2013, has a suggested list of questions to begin gathering information. The commission intends to publish the essays in its Kansas Days oral history project.
The “New Black Friday” project was started last year.
At the same time, the organizers of a local history book are asking for help from Wichitans. The book will chronicle decades of life in Wichita and feature early African-American families, segregation, relationships with Lebanese and Hispanic communities, the Double V Campaign, the Dockum Sit-in and the Piatt Street plane crash.
The authors are looking for photos, artifacts and stories that Wichitans may have that depict those subjects.
“We are trying to bring attention to the contributions of black Americans,” said Carole Branda, curator of the Kansas African American Museum, which is sponsoring the project. The team includes Jay Price, Wichita State University history department chairman; Gretchen Eick, professor emeritus of history at Friends University; Robert Weebs, WSU history professor; Mark McCormick, executive director at the Kansas African American Museum; Branda; and Abril Marshall and Mark Strohminger, WSU graduate students.
“Black history should not be regulated to one month a year,” Branda said. “There is so more people don’t know. We have so many outstanding people that come from the black community in Wichita, and that information is not out there and not talked about where people can learn about it.”
Branda said that when she was growing up, historically significant events weren’t often talked about by family members. For instance, one of the nation’s first successful lunch counter sit-ins occurred in Wichita during the summer of 1958 at the Dockum Drugs store, where The Ambassador hotel now sits at Douglas and Broadway. Or that historians now believe the first sparks of the Civil War began on Kansas soil over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a slave or free state. The Double V Campaign was started in Wichita, and it encouraged African- Americans at the end of World War II to adopt the Double “V” policy: the first “V” for victory over Allied enemies and the second “V” for victory over segregation. African-American newspapers nationwide wrote about the campaign to change attitudes.
“When I was growing up, my parents did everything to protect me from any negative things going on in the world,” Branda said. “I know they did it because they cared about me. I grew up not knowing these things. As I came to work in the Kansas African American Musem, I was shocked at the things that have been left out of our education. I had no idea that the Dockum drugstore sit-in went on.”
People who may have photos, artifacts and stories of African-American life in Wichita are encouraged to talk with Branda at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 316-262-7651.