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A Book for All People

Learn More About Lawrence's Feisty Past

How much do you know about the history of Lawrence? Most people have heard about Quantrill's raid, Bleeding Kansas, and the state's place in Civil War history. But did you know by the 1880s, most of Lawrence was segregated? Or that a white mob lynched three black men thought to have murdered a white man in 1882?

The book "Embattled Lawrence: The Enduring Struggle for Freedom" details the fight for racial, gender, and economic equality in the city. Chapters cover subjects such as civil rights and anti-war protests at the University of Kansas and the heart-wrenching history behind the founding of Haskell University. Readers meet like Aunt Jane Williams, who made a comfortable living from her Pennsylvania Street home in the Bottom's red-light district during the late 1880s to the early 1900s, Mike McCaffrey and his time on the Lawrence police force during the turbulent 1960s and 70s, and The Reverend Joseph Alford, who helped found the Jubilee Café in 1994.

"Lawrence is a place that from the very beginning was tumultuous and embattled because it was a Free State city," says Dennis Domer, the book's editor and retired KU professor. "From that very beginning, that embattled-ness psychology, psyche, we considered ourselves as rising from the ashes of all of that, and that we were not going to let any fate of history put us down."

This is the second volume in the Embattled Lawrence series. The inspiration behind the books came when Domer taught a class on Lawrence's history at KU. Realizing there wasn't a book containing the information he wanted students to study, he compiled volume one, which was printed in 2001 and is now out of print. He hopes to raise the money to reprint it and match it to volume 2's style.

Domer explains, "The volumes are closely allied because they're about the history of Lawrence. The first one is called 'Embattled Lawrence: Conflict and Community,' which poses the hypothesis that people believe this is an embattled city. It's very feisty. It stands up to authority more easily than most cities. It's through conflict that we have created our community and our idea of ourselves.

"Both volumes are about struggle, but the second one focuses on the idea of enduring struggle."

Domer and the book's editorial staff gathered 38 articles from 35 different writers. The pieces are divided into six subject areas: Anti-Slavery, Struggles for Freedom, Haskell Indian Nations University, Tumultuous Years of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, Toward Equal Rights for All, and Governing a Diverse Community.

At 480 pages, the book isn't meant to be read cover to cover. Instead, Domer suggests flipping through it and reading the articles that capture your attention.

"It's supposed to be a book for all people," he says. "And it's supposed to suggest that we're all students. That nobody knows everything. Every day is a learning day, and all our lives are potentially learning days if we're open to that."

"Embattled Lawrence: The Enduring Struggle for Freedom" is available at the Watkins Museum of History (WatkinsMuseum.org) and Raven Book Store (RavenBookStore.com). Since Domer raised enough money to cover the entire publishing costs, all the proceeds for the book go to the Watkins Museum and Raven Book Store. He is currently working on volume three and plans a final volume four to complete the collection.

It's very feisty. It stands up to authority more easily than most cities. It's through conflict that we have created our community and our idea of ourselves.

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