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Kansas History - Forthcoming issue

Volume 45, Number 4 (Winter 2022-2023)

Sundown in the Sunflower State: African American Exclusion in Rural Kansas

By Daniel Jantz

Beginning after Reconstruction in the late nineteenth century, thousands of small towns across the country intentionally excluded African Americans from joining their populations through formal processes, informal means, or a combination of both strategies. Getting their nickname from the public postings at the city limits, these communities became colloquially referred to as “sundown towns” and purposefully kept their racial composition predominantly white. This article joins a growing revision of how the color line in Kansas limited the social and political opportunities of African Americans in the state by exposing how Jim Crow-era policies also dictated where they could not live. Through local newspaper articles from the period, it becomes clear that rural white Kansans encouraged exclusion by linking it with white conceptions of safety and prosperity. While sundown towns eventually fell out of favor in the Sunflower State, their legacy has left a lasting impact on state demographics, as many rural communities still have relatively homogenous populations.

“Join the Parade to the Future:” Automatic Car Washes in Wichita, 1920-1970

By Rami Toubia Stucky

There are currently more than two dozen automatic car washes scattered throughout the Wichita metropolitan area. This article takes a historical look at this recent phenomenon and analyzes midcentury advertisements in the Wichita Eagle and Wichita Beacon, the city’s two flagship newspapers. In these sources, advertisers and car wash owners depicted automatic car washes as modern enterprises that were built out of glass, steel, and aluminum. Wichitans could go to a car wash to engage in a spectacle. Some watched their car get washed through an observation deck. Others heard the sounds of the car wash on their local radio station. In a post-industrial city such as Wichita, the recent proliferation of automatic car washes harkens back to a midcentury moment when car washes symbolized modernity, progress, and Cold War American hegemony. Yet, current automatic car washes bring their own problems. They rely on cheap labor, and large chains often displace local businesses. For a city relying on automatic car washes to “join the parade to the future,” it might be best to look elsewhere.

National and State Register of Historic Places Nominations in 2022

By Jamee Fiore and Hayley Rose

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) at the Kansas Historical Society works directly with private property owners, local governments, advocates, and other members of the public to better research and document Kansas’s past through its changing cultural history, by administering programs tied to the built environment. Often, the public is interested in recognizing the history of their community or family but needs assistance in researching that history based on primary and secondary sources. Based on the desire of these stakeholders, there has been a shift in focus for the historic preservation field, placing an emphasis on properly representing and documenting underrepresented groups. For the past year, the Kansas Historic Preservation Office has been working closely with two interns, history students from the University of Kansas and Washburn University, whose work has helped the Kansas Historical Society expand its understanding of historic places in the state. This article presents some of the findings of that research as well as recent Kansas listings on the National Register of Historic Places and the Register of Historic Kansas Places.

Book Reviews

Book Notes