Life in the Trenches

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “Eye Deep in Hell: Trench Warfare during World War I” by Larry Burke.

"Over the Top." American soldiers answer the bugle call to "charge," 1918.  Image by Keystone View Co., via Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

“Over the Top.” American soldiers answer the bugle call to “charge,” 1918. Image by Keystone View Co., via Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Soldiers in the trenches of World War I suffered extreme temperatures, disease, and parasites in addition to the psychological stresses of war. How did the soldiers cope with the immense stress of life in the trenches? How did they find the courage to go ‘over the top’ into the maelstrom of no man’s land? Larry Burke’s Speakers Bureau presentation examines the strategies and tactics of trench warfare along the Western Front.

“Advancements in military technology, particularly machine guns and artillery, made the offensive tactics attempted by both sides early in World War I horrifically costly and obsolete,” said Burke. “This caused a stalemate on the Western Front resulting in trench warfare which imposed terrific physical and mental stress on the individual soldier ‘eye deep in hell.’”

Many World War I trench warfare soldiers suffered from “shell shock,” a combat stress reaction similar to today’s post-traumatic stress disorder. The presentation explores the similarities between battlefield stresses experienced by World War I soldiers 100 years ago and those of today’s soldiers.

Larry Burke

Larry Burke

Larry Burke is a historian, emeritus professor at Dodge City Community College, and a Vietnam combat veteran. His research focuses on military history with special emphasis on Civil War and Reconstruction, Vietnam War, and World War II history.

You can attend Larry Burke’s “Eye Deep in Hell: Trench Warfare during World War I” on August 9th in Park City. You can also bring this or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.

“Poet Low Rate” with Humor and Grace

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “Langston Hughes in Kansas” by Carmaletta Williams.

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

“I fell in love with Langston Hughes through the grace, power and humor of his poetry,” says Speakers Bureau presenter Carmaletta Williams. “He identified with people that resembled all those in my neighborhood.”

“By naming himself the ‘poet low rate’ of all of America, he made sure his life’s work belonged to all of America, not just my part of it,” she explains. “The title was a fitting honor for Hughes, not an insult. His stories animate the lives of working class America with humor and grace.”

When Langston Hughes was still a baby, his mother brought him to live with his grandmother in Lawrence. Williams’ research uncovers how his experiences in Kansas remained an important part of his art throughout his life. In her presentation, “Langston Hughes in Kansas,” she shares Hughes’ works and shows how his words gave voice to Black Americans at a time when opportunities for them to speak and be heard were limited.

Carmaletta Williams

Carmaletta Williams

Carmaletta M. Williams is a professor of English and African American Studies at Johnson County Community College. She has served as a guest speaker on the African American experience at cultural organizations throughout the Kansas City area, the state of Kansas, nationally, and internationally.

You can bring Carmaletta M. Williams’ “Langston Hughes in Kansas” or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.

Home Grown Connections

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “Writers Growing Up Black in Kansas” by John Edgar Tidwell.

Gordon Parks directs a scene from the 1969 film "The Learning Tree," based on his book of the same name.  Image courtesy of KansasMemory, Kansas Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.

Gordon Parks, left, directs a scene from the 1969 film “The Learning Tree,” based on his book of the same name.
Image courtesy of KansasMemory, Kansas Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.

“The celebrity that has come to Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz is richly deserved,” says KHC scholar John Edgar Tidwell. “Its iconic status as the most acclaimed book and film representing Kansas life and values, however, made me wonder whether any other books or authors might deserve similar recognition.

“This talk seeks to answer that question by exploring the Kansas connections of three writers who were distinguished in their own right: Langston Hughes, Gordon Parks, and Frank Marshall Davis.

Hughes, Parks, and Davis were all shaped by life in Kansas, a land full of uncertainty and contradictions for African Americans. Each of these writers developed his remarkable literary talents and learned how to succeed against the odds. Tidwell’s Speakers Bureau presentation, “Writers Growing Up Black in Kansas,” explores the work and creative processes underlying selected works by these three literary giants.

John Edgar Tidwell

John Edgar Tidwell

John Edgar Tidwell is a professor of English at the University of Kansas. His research specialties are African American and American literatures with particular expertise in the work of the multi-talented Langston Hughes, Kansas-born poet-journalist Frank Marshall Davis, and the “Harlem” Renaissance.

You can bring John Edgar Tidwell’s “Writers Growing Up Black in Kansas” or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.

Truman Capote and the Search for Meaning

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “Truman Capote and the Meanings of Kansas” by Dave Tell.

in cold blood“Many people know that Truman Capote came to Kansas to write In Cold Blood,” says Dave Tell. “But few people realize how Kansans used his presence to define—and redefine—the meaning of Kansas.”

Truman Capote’s 1966 book In Cold Blood rattled the state of Kansas. Kansans were so enraptured by Capote’s version of the 1959 murder of the Clutter family that one historian even called the western half of the state “Capote country.” In his Speakers Bureau presentation, “Truman Capote and the Meaning of Kansas,” Tell explores editorial and newspaper columns to uncover the reasons people cared about Capote, and how they refused to let him have the last word on the meaning of Kansas.

Dave Tell

Dave Tell

Dave Tell is an associate professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas and the author of Confessional Crises and Cultural Politics in Twentieth-Century America. He earned his PhD in Communication Arts and Sciences from Pennsylvania State University.

You can attend Dave Tell’s “Truman Capote and the Meanings of Kansas” on October 22nd in Wichita. You can also bring this or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.

Episode Four: Aftermath

In commemoration of the 155th anniversary of the capture, trial, and rescue of Kansan physician John Doy, KHC is featuring excerpts from “John Doy’s Escape” Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater script. The Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater project is a partnership between KHC and the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.                                                                                

Henry David Thoreau. Photo courtesy of: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Henry David Thoreau. Photo courtesy of: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Despite differences of opinions toward slavery’s expansion, the John Doy trial and rescue elicited similar questions for both Kansans and Missourians, free and slave, at the dawn of the Civil War: Which laws could be broken in defense of doing what one believed to be the right thing, and to what lengths would citizens go to defend their rights?

The rescue of Doy was an illegal act. It was so construed in the border territory of Missouri. The rescue had been affected by the men of Lawrence and the smouldering [sic] hatred for the town was kindled into flame. There was less wild passion than before, less call for armed invasion and immediate revenge; it was a slow flame which burned in the hearts of the border men, but it was one which gave no sign of quickly dying out. “Our day will come,” declared the Ruffians and guerrillas, and they waited for the day impatiently.

Allen Crafton, Free State Fortress: The First Ten Years of the History of Lawrence, Kansas, 1954.

A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote.

Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, 1849. 

July 2014 marks the 155th anniversary of John Doy’s rescue and return to Lawrence, Kansas. Thanks to all who followed KHC’s tweets and blog posts of “John Doy’s Escape” Shared Stories of the Civil War script.

 

The Best Show on Earth

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “Bronco Bustin’ Showmen and Their Spectacular Wild West Shows” by Jane Rhoads.

Poster, 1899. Printed by Courier Litho, Co., Buffalo, NY. Via Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Poster, 1899. Printed by Courier Litho, Co., Buffalo, NY. Via Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Roping, trick riding, sharp shooting—Wild West show actors used their talents and honed their skills in order to amaze and delight audiences across the country as they romanticized the rough and tumble days of the American West.

Speakers Bureau presenter Jane Rhoads explores how Wild West show entertainers delighted audiences in the United States and abroad at the turn of the 20th century. Little known is that a surprising number of skilled cowboys and breathtaking shows originated here in the Great Plains region. Her presentation highlights famous western entertainers including Will Rogers, Pawnee Bill, Tom Mix, and Lucille Mulhall.

Jane Rhoads

Jane Rhoads

Jane Rhoads is the author of Kansas Opera Houses, Actors, and Community Events 1855–1925, a 2009 Notable Kansas Book. She has traveled the state locating and photographing Kansas’ remaining opera houses and learning about their social and theatrical significance.

You can attend Jane Rhoads’ “Bronco Bustin’ Showmen and Their Spectacular Wild West Shows” on July 26 in Arkansas City and July 28 in Dodge City. You can also bring this or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.

True History Today

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “Images of American Indians in Popular Culture” by Sonya Ortiz.

The 1998 film "Smoke Signal" was the first feature film written, directed, co-produced, and acted by American Indians.

The 1998 film “Smoke Signal” was the first feature film written, directed, co-produced, and acted by American Indians.

“We need to be aware of how wrongful depictions contribute to views of Indigenous Peoples, namely how it emotionally affects our youth,” said Speakers Bureau presenter Sonya Ortiz. “For instance, in 2013 a restaurant posted on their marquee, ‘KC Chiefs will scalp the Redskins feed them whiskey send-2-reservation.’ Popular Indigenous imagery has created misguided depictions for decades, including today.”

In her presentation, Ortiz explores how depictions of the Indigenous peoples of North America can be found throughout mainstream culture. Hollywood films, cartoons, sports mascots, and new age gurus often portray American Indians as fierce warriors and other stereotypes. This presentation reclaims these false images to more truthfully explore both the history and current experiences of American Indians in today’s world.

Sonya Ortiz

Sonya Ortiz

Sonya Ortiz is a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and Acoma Pueblo of New Mexico. She has an MA in Indigenous Studies from the University of Kansas and has worked as a teacher for 20 years. She also serves on many advisory boards advocating Native American community health and education.

You can bring Sonya Ortiz’s “Images of American Indians in Popular Culture” or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.

Back in Lawrence

In commemoration of the 155th anniversary of the capture, trial, and rescue of Kansan physician John Doy, KHC is featuring excerpts from “John Doy’s Escape” Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater script. The Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater project is a partnership between KHC and the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.                                                                                

John E. Stewart. Image courtesy of: kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and Reuse Restrictions apply.

John E. Stewart. Image courtesy of: kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and Reuse Restrictions apply.

Mr. Brown made an effort to close the door and shut Doy in, but when he saw three powerful men with deadly weapons in their hands and determination on their faces, he saw that resistance was useless, and he permitted Doy to come out, and the remainder of the prisoners were coming too, had they not been forced back at the muzzle of a revolver – for Doy, at the risk of his own life and of his friends’, had been true to his failing (indiscretion), and told his fellow-prisoners that he was sure of being released that night, and they had their bundles ready to depart with him.

James B. Abbott, “The Rescue of Dr. John W. Doy,” 1889.

When we reached the street, I fell, unable to stand, from weakness and disease, occasioned by my long confinement.  Two of the men took me under the arms and bore me on.  It was so dark I could see nothing . . .

At last, keeping together as well as we could, we reached the river bank . . . But, in the thick darkness, we missed the place where the boats had been left, and knew not exactly where to look for them, when two of the night police, probably hearing our voices and perceiving a number of persons together, came towards us with large lanterns, which they held up in the air, that they might better see what we were about. By their light we saw our boats a little higher up the stream; hastened to them, jumped in and untied them . . . By dint of hard pulling, for the current of the Missouri is very strong there, we soon landed on the Kansas bank, which I had often gazed at longingly from the window of my cell. I was helped into a covered wagon, and laid on some hay in the bottom, when two pistol-shots were fired, as agreed upon, to give notice to our Kansas friends in St. Joseph, that I was safe and prepared to travel.

John Doy, The Narrative of John Doy, 1860.

We soon hauled our borrowed boats high and dry on the sandbar on the Kansas side, and (in our hearts) thanking the owners for their use, we hitched up our teams, and, with Dr. [John E.] Stewart for our guide, at about twelve o’clock were on our winding way for Lawrence . . .

About ten o’clock in the morning we observed six horsemen coming about a mile in our rear . . . When we stopped for dinner at one o’clock they stopped also.  Soon we observed a footman leaving said party, and when he arrived we interviewed him and satisfied ourselves that was sent to ascertain if Doy was with us, as well as the strength of our party . . . We pressed him hard to ride with us, that he could not refuse, and he continued with us till dark, when he was seated by the road-side, and one of our horsemen remained with him for a half-hour, and as he left, advised the gentlemen not to follow our party.  I suppose he acted upon the advice, as we never saw him afterwards.

James B. Abbott, “The Rescue of Dr. John W. Doy,” 1889.

By the time a sufficient force had been assembled in St. Joseph for the recapture of Doy, the Doctor and his rescue party were gone. The Doy rescue party – later dubbed “The Immortal Ten” – reached Lawrence on the afternoon of Monday, July 25.  Supporters lined the street, cheering.

Residents of St. Joseph were furious, and Edwin Grant, editor of the Free Democrat, was asked to leave for his own safety. A reward was offered by the Buchanan County, Missouri, Sherriff’s Office for the re-arrest of Doy. 

As we entered the city a treble salute was fired, and the noble Ten were loudly cheered and welcomed, as having brought to a successful issue the boldest attempt at rescue ever planned and carried into effect, and as having effaced the stain of at least one of the insults offered to Kansas by her more powerful neighbor . . . I, though crippled and diseased by ill usage and long imprisonment, [was] once more a free man, restored to my home, to my family and friends, and to the soil I love so well.

John Doy, The Narrative of John Doy, 1860.

READER 3:

$1000 For the Arrest of John Doy!

John Doy is an Englishman, and apparently from 45 to 50 years old, is low in stature, rather heavy set, has black hair and eyes, heavy black whiskers and dark complexion.  He was convicted of negro stealing and sentenced to confinement in the State Prison for five years. He was confined in jail awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court upon the appeal that had been taken in his case. He was rescued from the jail, and no doubt crossed the river into Kansas Territory, about 12 o’clock on Saturday night.

Advertisement, Posted by the Sherriff of Buchanan County, Missouri, July 21, 1859.

This is an outrage and . . . most unfortunate for the peace of the border between Kansas and Missouri. If the laws are to be thus disregarded, it will not be strange if in the future persons charged with Negro theft should be hung up to the nearest tree, without the benefit of a trial . . . Nothing has ever occurred in our city which has created so much indignation.

St. Joseph Gazette, July 28, 1859.

Be sure to read the tenth and final blog installment of the “John Doy’s Escape” reader’s theater script tomorrow!

The Art of War

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “An Artist in the World Wars” by Ron Michael.

Michael_Poor2 copy

Valley of the Mosselle at Metz by Henry Varnum Poor (1887-1970), 1918, watercolor on paper, 6 x 8 inches. Greenough Collection, Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery.
During his time in Europe during the First World War, Poor documented this scene of the Mosselle River flowing through the town of Metz in Northeastern France.

Artist Henry Varnum Poor grudgingly entered the First World War because it took him away from his work as a teacher and artist. “Using Kansas-instilled fortitude, however, he made the best of the situation and eventually became regimental artist for the 115th Regiment of Engineers in France,” explains Ron Michael.

“World War II was a different story, with Poor volunteering his artistic and writing skills to document the underappreciated wartime activities along the Alaskan coastline.”

Poor, a native of Chapman, Kansas, was already an accomplished artist when he was drafted to serve in World War I. His duties along the frontlines were dangerous, but he was able to document his surroundings and fellow soldiers in paintings, drawings, and prints. Years later, Poor volunteered his services to again paint and sketch military activities during the second World War. In this Speakers Bureau presentation, Michael compares Poor’s work and writings during the World Wars.

Ron Michael

Ron Michael

Ron Michael is the curator of the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg, where he has researched Sandzén and other artists in the gallery’s collection.

You can attend Ron Michael’s “An Artist in the World Wars” on September 6th in Lansing. You can also bring this or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.

 

A Risky Mission

In commemoration of the 155th anniversary of the capture, trial, and rescue of Kansan physician John Doy, KHC is featuring excerpts from “John Doy’s Escape” Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater script. The Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater project is a partnership between KHC and the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.                                                                              

Joseph Gardner. Image courtesy of kansasmemory.org, Kansas Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.

Joseph Gardner. Image courtesy of kansasmemory.org, Kansas Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.

Abbott’s mission was top secret.  He assembled nine men, including Charles Doy, in two horse-drawn wagons armed with three sporting rifles, 15 revolvers, and five knives. On July 22, they left Lawrence at 5 p.m. and headed east to Elwood, located across the river from St. Joseph. Posing as penniless gold scavengers from Colorado, the men rode the ferry across the Missouri River into St. Joseph on the morning of July 23. They separated. Abbott introduced himself to Dr. Edwin H. Grant, the editor of the only anti-slavery paper in St. Joseph, the Free Democrat, and inquired about John Doy’s state.

[Grant] told us further, that he was in the habit of visiting Doy in his cell as often as once a week, to take him papers from among his exchanges.  When I became satisfied of Grant’s reliability, I told him the object of our visit, and made known to him our plans . . .

Abbott told Dr. Grant that at eleven o’clock at night, the rescuers would pretend to be transporting a horse thief to the jail, and once let inside, would free Dr. Doy from his cell. Dr. Grant then arranged for the procurement of boats, which the rescuers would take across the Missouri River to safety. As Abbott and Dr. Grant prepared a safe escape route through St. Joseph after the capture, Silas Soule investigated the jail that housed Dr. Doy.

[Soule] informed the jailer that he had a verbal message from Mrs. Doy to her husband, Dr. John Doy, who he understood was a prisoner in the building. The jailer, Mr. Brown, immediately led the way to the door of the room where the Doctor was confined, and threw open the outside or heavy oaken door, leaving the iron-gated door between the Doctor and Soule. After the usual greetings, Soule informed the Doctor that . . . Mrs. Doy wished him to say to the Doctor that his friends had given up all hopes of obtaining his release through the courts, and that undoubtedly in a few days he would be sent to the penitentiary in accordance with the sentence of the court . . .           

After Soule had given his message, he succeeded in prolonging his time by giving bits of news, scandal, etc., until he had made a tolerable good survey of the premises, and succeeded in turning the attention of the jailer away from him long enough to pass to Doy, through the grates, a ball of twine and a paper, on which it was written: “To-night, at twelve o’clock.” He then bade the doctor good-bye, and thanking the jailer for his courtesy, hurried back to make his report, which was, that with the best implements that we could get, it would take at least two hours of unmolested hard work to get through the doors into the room where Doy was confined.

James B. Abbott, “The Rescue of Dr. John W. Doy,” 1889.

In spite of Soule’s doubts, the group was not discouraged. By 9 p.m. that evening, a violent rainstorm began, and the streets of St. Joseph were deserted. Around midnight, S. J. Willis — disguised as a sheriff  — knocked loudly on the door of the jail, and the jailer emerged from the second floor window in a nightshirt.

Jailer: Who’s there?  What do you want?

Willis: We’re from Andrew County, and we’ve got a prisoner we want to put into jail for safe keeping. Come down quick.

Jailer: Who is he?

Willis: A notorious horse-thief.

Jailer: Have you got a warrant?

Willis: No, but it’s all right.

Jailer: I can’t take a man in without authority.

Willis: If you don’t, it’ll be too bad; for he’s a desperate character, and we’ve had hard work to catch him. We’ll satisfy you in the morning that’s all right.

John Doy, The Narrative of John Doy, 1860.

At this the jailer suggested that “he guessed they had the right man,” and agreed to lock him up. Tom Simmons played the role of the thief (having his hands securely bound with the cord of a sling shot, holding the lead ball of the deadly weapon in one hand) while Joseph Gardner and S.J. Willis were his guards. The trio passed inside where the jailer unlocked the grated door and stood aside for the prisoner to walk in. He objected to entering, saying that he would not occupy the same cell with Negroes. He was assured that the “niggers” were all kept in another room, at the same time in order to reassure him the jailer stepped inside the door himself. At that instant he was confronted on one side by a big knife and revolver on the other.

Theodore Gardner, “An Episode of Kansas History: The Doy Rescue,” 1928.

Willis: Have you got old Doy, the abolitionist, in here?

Jailer: Doctor Doy is here.

Willis: That’s the man we have come for. Friend, we have deceived thee until now, but it was necessary for our purpose. We have not come to put a man into prison, but to take out of it one who is unjustly confined.

John Doy, The Narrative of John Doy, 1860.

Do you think the rescue party was justified in breaking John Doy out of prision?  Why or why not? Look for the ninth blog post tomorrow!