LAWRENCE — University of Kansas Libraries and the Dole Institute of Politics will host a panel discussion featuring firsthand accounts of members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first African-American military aviators, as well as other veterans of World War II. The program brings together a group of African-American veterans from Kansas and Missouri who will share their personal experiences and discuss the impact the war had on their lives.
The event is scheduled for Thursday, April 5, at the Dole Institute of Politics. The panel presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by a dessert reception.
The presentation is a part of the African-American Experience, an ongoing collecting program established in 1986 by the Kansas Collection in Kenneth Spencer Research Library. The program works to expand the historical record of African-Americans and make related resources available to the public. This is the second of three events in a partnership with the Dole Institute and KU Libraries. The African-American World War II Veteran Series is made possible by Sandra Gautt, associate professor of special education, and a member of the KU Libraries Board of Advocates.
Panel moderator and KU Librarian Deborah Dandridge will guide the context of the discussion to encourage the group to reveal their stories to the public and receive the acknowledgment they deserve as heroes in the community.
“This program will provide the public with a rare opportunity to hear the stories of one of the segments of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ whose nation imposed a myriad of barriers to their collective and individual efforts, at home and at war, to experience the American creed of freedom and equality,” Dandridge said. “These soldiers hoped and pushed our nation to live up to its creed.”
Curator of Collections Sherry Williams hopes the event will initiate community support and honor World War II veterans for their service, while also encouraging research of the past.
"These first-hand accounts of veterans are crucial to our understanding of the past,” Williams said. “They form essential documents that facilitate study and research."
Dole Institute director Bill Lacy believes it is important to offer this community a chance to tell their stories and provide the community some insight into history.
"Working with and honoring veterans is something that is dear to Senator Dole's heart," Lacy said. "More than just a part of the Dole Institute's mission, it is a true honor to be able to provide a forum for the oral histories of the African-American soldier's experience in World War II."
Panelists include Robert Reed of Lawrence; John Adams; Maj. Harvey Bayless; and Charles S. Ellington of Kansas City, Kan.; Harry L. Gumby of Grandview, Mo.; William Tarlton of Topeka; and Sen. U.L. “Rip” Gooch of Wichita.
For more information about the event, which is free and open to the public, contact Kristina Crawford by email or 785-864-8961.
The Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s faculty and staff are dedicated to the preservation of diverse collections ranging from medieval manuscripts and other rare books to Kansas historical records to national political documents. For more information, visit online.
For more information on these or any Dole Institute programs, visit online or call 785-864-4900. The Dole Institute of Politics is dedicated to promoting public service, civic engagement and politics. It is located on KU’s west campus next to the Lied Center.