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Kansas History - Forthcoming issue

(Volume 45, Number 3)

When Emporia’s Unemployed Went on Strike: The 1935 Strike of Government Relief Workers

by James H. Ducker

The 1930s witnessed the economic collapse of the Great Depression, high unemployment, New Deal programs to furnish jobs and income, and the rise of radical worker advocates and unions. Historian James Ducker looks at how these phenomena played out in Emporia. In the early years of the Depression, Emporians had some success in helping the town’s impoverished, unemployed residents. White unemployed workers formed a self-help organization, the Allied Workers, and worked with town elites to better their own and the town’s fortunes. Eventually, New Deal work relief programs furnished jobs for hundreds of Emporians. But when state administrators of the federal work program in Topeka denied relief workers a raise, something they had lobbied for with the help of Emporia’s political and business leaders, the workers struck. Both internal and external forces vied for control of the strike. Ultimately the Allied Workers swayed strikers toward the more moderate path, and combined with their connection to local elites, they helped win the raise the workers demanded.

2022: A Polio Anniversary Year in Kansas

by Ernst F. Tonsing, edited and introduced by Melanie Highsmith

Seventy years ago, a plague descended upon Kansas as cruel as the COVID-19 virus. Just the word “polio” struck terror in parents and children and called forth horrendous visions of infants and adults, struggling to walk with their limbs clasped in iron braces, or fighting to breathe in iron lungs. No one knew how poliomyelitis was spread or who would get it next, and polio vaccines were in the future. Fearful of catching the virus, Kansans closed schools, swimming pools, and movie houses, and people avoided contact with each other. To mark the anniversary of this outbreak in 1952, Ernst F. (Fred) Tonsing, who contracted the disease as a teenager, describes his experiences as a polio patient and his struggle to recover. Melanie Highsmith, a Ph.D. Candidate studying the history of medicine at Kansas State University, introduces the memoir by discussing the race to develop a vaccine and the success of Dr. Jonas Salk, Dr. Albert Sabin, and others to eradicate the debilitating disease.

Redlining, White Flight, and the Making of Suburban Johnson County, Kansas

by Andrew R. Gustafson and Mary McMurray

Johnson County, Kansas, is a large postwar suburban community across the state line from Kansas City, Missouri. The private practice and federal policy of redlining that began in the 1910s and 1920s dictated the development of residential communities, how homes were financed, and who was able to purchase homes. Redlining is the systematic disinvestment of some neighborhoods and people in favor of others, largely on the basis of race. Private practices – including those pioneered by Johnson County's own J. C. Nichols – shaped federal policies implemented during the Great Depression. Public historians Andrew R. Gustafson and Mary McMurray of the Johnson County Museum trace the history of both the practice and policy of redlining, from its foundations after the Civil War through postwar suburbanization, the successes and failures of dismantling the system during the Civil Rights era, and legacies that continue to shape the Kansas City and Johnson County communities. This article shares some of the museum staff's findings after conducting two years of research into the topic for the Johnson County Museum's special exhibition, REDLINED: Cities, Suburbs, and Segregation.

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