Debra Ann Harvey Hicks

Ms. Hicks' mother, Dorothy Harvey, is also interviewed in the three sets of interviews for this project. Her great-grandmother came to Lawrence in the Civil War era with General Blunt. Ms. Hicks grew up in rural Douglas County in a black community, most of whom were relatives, in an otherwise white neighborhood. Ms. Hicks discusses racial relationships at Lawrence High School and at KU in the l960s. She is a member of St. Luke AME church and taught in the Lawrence school system.

Dorothy Harvey Centennial Project interview, Celebrating St. Luke Church interview, 1977 interview

Debra Ann (Harvey) Hicks
June 20, 1977

Interview by Curtis Nether

MR. NETHER: What's your name?

MRS. HICKS: Debra Ann Harvey Hicks.

MR. NETHER: What's your marital status?

MRS. HICKS: I am now divorced.

MR. NETHER: No children, I presume?

MRS. HICKS: Right.

MR. NETHER: Miss Hicks, what's your parents' names?

MRS. HICKS: Dean Olin Harvey and Dorothy May Harvey.

MR. NETHER: Where was your father born?

MRS. HICKS: He was born in Lawrence, Kansas.

MR. NETHER: In Lawrence. Where was your mother born?

MRS. HICKS: She was born in Kansas City, Kansas.

MR. NETHER: Where was your father's father born?

MRS. HICKS: He was born here in Lawrence, Kansas.

MR. NETHER: Douglas County?


MR. NETHER: Do you know about what time?

MRS. HICKS: I believe my grandfather was born somewhere around 1868, '69, somewhere along there.

MR. NETHER: What's your grandfather's name?

MRS. HICKS: Edward Harvey.

MR. NETHER: Edward Harvey?

MRS. HICKS: He has a middle name, but I don't know what it is.

MR. NETHER: Do you know your grandmother's name on your father's side?

MRS. HICKS: Oh, on my father's side. Yeah. That would be Maude Henne Harvey.

MR. NETHER: Why did they come? Were they born here in Douglas County also?

MRS. HICKS: Yes, I believe that my grandmother Henry was born here too. I am not sure.

MR. NETHER: Going back far now, how did your father's father's father—

MRS. HICKS: My great-grandfather.

MR. NETHER: Your great-grandfather, how did he get here?

MRS. HICKS: My great-grandfather came, as I understand it, out of slavery out of Arkansas to find my great-grandmother who came here before he did.

MR. NETHER: Why did your great-grandmother come here?

MRS. HICKS: She was on a plantation when General Blunt made a raid and she could either stay there or come with him, and of course, coming with him meant freedom, so she started out with her children and she came up here and decided to settle in Lawrence.

MR. NETHER: Do you know why she came to Kansas, why not Nebraska?

MRS. HICKS: I don't know. But when they came through Lawrence, she was told that it was a good place to stay, that it's a breaking point, and that here a lot of battles had been fought for freedom, so she decided to stay here.

MR. NETHER: Kind of inspired by the John Brown raids and so on?

MRS. HICKS: Right.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, what's your age?

MRS. HICKS: I am twenty-six.

MR. NETHER: If you don't mind me asking. See how I brave that?

MRS. HICKS: Yeah, I see how you snuck it in.

MR. NETHER: And you were also born here in Douglas County. Did you attend school here?



MRS. HICKS: My entire life.

MR. NETHER: What grade school did you attend?

MRS. HICKS: I went to Fairview Grade School first through fourth grades and then Kaw Valley Grade School fifth through eighth.

MR. NETHER: What was it like for you in grade school? Did you have black teachers?

MRS. HICKS: No. But it was tremendous because it was a one-room school and everybody first through eighth was there, and many times we ended up, like I ended up my second-grade year with nobody in my class, so my teacher taught me with the third-graders, so I was always being advanced, never put back, always advanced.

MR. NETHER: Are these schools out in the country?


MR. NETHER: Are they county schools now?


MR. NETHER: That's good. Because we haven't talked about that.

MRS. HICKS: And Fairview is now closed. We were consolidated into Kaw Valley.

MR. NETHER: How many blacks did they have in Kaw Valley?

MRS. HICKS: None, except my cousin Elizabeth.

MR. NETHER: So it was two of you.

MRS. HICKS: There were two of us.

MR. NETHER: Did you ever learn about black people?

MRS. HICKS: Not in school, but through my parents.

MR. NETHER: So your teachers never emphasized people like Booker T. Washington or Du Bois or Marcus Garvey?

MRS. HICKS: No. the only one we ever learned about was, I can't think of his name.

MR. NETHER: George Washington Carver?

MRS. HICKS: Yes, the man with the peanuts.

MR. NETHER: All right. Debbie, was there any segregation or separation in your schools, your early school life?


MR. NETHER: Do you think you were accorded all the attention that most of the other students were, if not more or less?

MRS. HICKS: Probably more.

MR. NETHER: If you had potential, the teachers seem to try to develop that potential no matter who you were?

MRS. HICKS: Yeah, in the grade schools they did.

MR. NETHER: What junior high school did you go to?

MRS. HICKS: I went to West Junior High School.

MR. NETHER: West. How many black teachers did they have at West?

MRS. HICKS: None, that I know of.

MR. NETHER: How many black students, approximately, did they have?

MRS. HICKS: Oh, there must have been forty of us, maybe more.

MR. NETHER: In West Junior High, we have a few more blacks than you did in grade school. Did they here teach you anything about black history?

MRS. HICKS: Only in one of my social studies classes and that was because we had a chance to pick out our own subjects and I decided to go that way.

MR. NETHER: So it was still individual?

MRS. HICKS: Right.

MR. NETHER: Was there any segregation or separation in the classes in West Junior High?


MR. NETHER: Did you have good textbooks and good facilities?

MRS. HICKS: Yes, because West was the newest junior high.

MR. NETHER: Did anybody ever seem turned off about the blacks now attending? Did they ever think of trying to send you somewhere else, maybe down to Central?

MRS. HICKS: Not that I know of.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, before we get to high school, I want you to think for a minute. I want you to think back to your earliest life here in Douglas County. What was it like? If we could cast your thoughts on the screen, what would we see? What would Douglas County be like when you were a very small child?

MRS. HICKS: It was a lot of fun simply because I lived in the middle of a white neighborhood, but in a black community. All the black families owned like the property on one road, and we owned on both sides, and of course, they were my cousins. We were all kin, except for two other families who lived below us, and they didn't have any children, they were older couples, but we lived like with the community within a community. My first encounter of really being considered black was when I was in the first grade, and I was beginning to start first grade, and a woman brought her daughter over so she would know what black people were.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, were you born on a farm?


MR. NETHER: Was your father also born on a farm?


MR. NETHER: When did your family first acquire the farm that you own?

MRS. HICKS: My great-grandmother came and settled in 1863 and the original acre belongs to Uncle Dave, so if she started to buy property and somewhere along the line the property had been in the Harvey family, so we still are all on the property that my great-grandmother had acquired sometime or other.

MR. NETHER: Do you know exactly how much land she acquired then?

MRS. HICKS: It's been reported anywhere in between 850 and a thousand acres, but we only own now right at 360 acres of the property that she once owned.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, again, how did she get it? Could you explain that again?

MRS. HICKS: She sharecropped, as I understand it. She came up and she settled on one acre and she began to sharecrop. She was a very shrewd woman, evidently, because she would buy and sell, and the more that she made, the more she invested into money.

MR. NETHER: Do you know for what family she sharecropped?

MRS. HICKS: I don't have the slightest idea, Curtis, it's never been mentioned.

MR. NETHER: Wasn't Bowersock, was it?

MRS. HICKS: I don't think so.

MR. NETHER: He owned everything else. So your family acquired their farm because of what your great-grandmother had done by sharecropping and so on?

MRS. HICKS: Right.

MR. NETHER: Has there ever been any time in your family's history, Debbie, that you think of where your family actually thought of selling the farm?

MRS. HICKS: At one time it was completely out of our hands and that was before the brothers, my grandfather had lost it somewhere along the line, and the three brothers, his three sons, went to work and rebought part of it, and that's how we have it.

MR. NETHER: Has your father been on the same farm?


MR. NETHER: And your grandfather was, but he lost it, then your father was born before he lost it?

MRS. HICKS: Right. But the thing about it was that the Harvey name was so well known that whoever he lost it to just let them live there as he tried to buy it back, and I don't know whether he lost it during the Depression or not, but it still stayed within the Harvey name but somebody else just owned it.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, from junior high school, what high school did you attend?

MRS. HICKS: Lawrence High School.

MR. NETHER: Was it located on Nineteenth and Louisiana then too?


MR. NETHER: Did they have any black teachers?

MRS. HICKS: I had one my senior year in high school.

MR. NETHER: What was his name?

MRS. HICKS: Leonard Clark.

MR. NETHER: Leonard Clark. What subjects did he teach?

MRS. HICKS: He taught government. He might have taught American history, but I had him for government.

MR. NETHER: To your knowledge, was he the first black teacher at Lawrence High?

MRS. HICKS: As far as I know. There might have been student teachers or something, but I don't know.

MR. NETHER: Were there any administrators that were black?


MR. NETHER: Were there any board members that were black while you were in school?

MRS. HICKS: I don't think so, but John Spearman came on shortly before I graduated or after, but I don't remember.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, did you ever learn any black history in high school?

MRS. HICKS: Yes, because I had Bernard King for American history and he taught me some, not much, but he taught me some.

MR. NETHER: How many blacks approximately went to Lawrence High when you were there?

MRS. HICKS: Oh, I imagine about a hundred twenty-five.

MR. NETHER: Did these blacks seem to get involved in extracurricular activities there?

MRS. HICKS: My years in high school took a very strange turn. My sophomore year we had a black student council president, we had black class officers in the junior class, and they were very much involved. And all the girls were involved in pep club and I became involved and the other kids became involved. My junior year we had senior black class leaders and that was the year that—speaking of 1968—Louis Scott won the citizenship award, and he was the first black to win the citizenship award, but as the other classes behind us came along, they didn't do anything. We just didn't go anywhere.

MR. NETHER: Why do you think there was so much participation by blacks when you were in high school? Was it a reflection of the times, the black pride, the militancy type—

MRS. HICKS: No. This was all before that. I don't know, Curtis. It was just a group of kids who wanted to become involved. We had star football players, star basketball players. The girls were behind the boys when they were out there, that kind of thing. But as we slowly came along, the kids just didn't want to try out. They had this thing that nobody would let them try out. The big problem seemed to be that they didn't have a cheerleader, but no one would try out. The whole three years I was there, there was one girl who tried out, and she just didn't make it, that's all. Of course, 1968-69 was the year of the walkout, and they walked out for cheerleaders, more black teachers, and more counselors and administrators, and it was really a weird time because some of us didn't walk out because we didn't feel like a cheerleader was really the thing to walk out for. Teachers, yes, counselors, yes, but a cheerleader, no. And then there were some like me who were carrying five subjects, like advanced calculus, advanced English. We couldn't afford to walk out. We had to be in class. But they had those possibilities. We could foresee a cheerleader if we took somebody, practiced here, worked her out and put her out there. I really felt like she could make it if she wanted to. They also wanted the chance at a black queen, which I don't think they could have ever had if they didn't have separate ballots.

MR. NETHER: So the queen issue and the cheerleader issue by the blacks being a minority in the school, this was the reason why a lot of them weren't elected to positions. Could you foresee—this is kind of personal—could you foresee any discrimination however, to keep blacks from those positions, or was it just numbers?

MRS. HICKS: A lot of times it was numbers but a lot of times it was blacks discriminating against blacks. Because when I was a sophomore, Tom Miller, who was the student council president, was also called an Uncle Tom. I don't care what he did. He was considered an Uncle Tom by the other blacks, and Louis Scott wasn't well liked among the blacks. I wasn't well liked among the blacks because my parents made sure that I did things. If I wanted to do them, I got to do them. Now, a lot of this could have been an economic problem. The kids could not afford things like that. But my parents saw if I wanted a new pep club uniform, they were a lot more expensive then than they are now, and so maybe it could have been that kids just didn't have the money.

MR. NETHER: Who were some of the athletes, the good black athletes, that played when you were in school?

MRS. HICKS: Tom Miller played basketball, Larry Kimball played football, James Dean, football. There were two Gaines boys. I can't remember their names. And there were—can't think of the other boys' names. There were quite a few of them though.

MR. NETHER: It wasn't separate, like separate black basketball team?

MRS. HICKS: No, they all played together.

MR. NETHER: Do you have any idea when they broke that color line when they finally integrated the athletics at Lawrence High?

MRS. HICKS: No, I don't, but it was sometime after Daddy graduated. I imagine not until the 1940s sometime, maybe even later.

MR. NETHER: I just asked that because many of the other people that came in, they show me your books and your dad too had a black baseball team and so on. Debbie, is there anything else about Lawrence High, about your school days there, that you would like to bring out? Was it generally a pleasant situation? Do you feel lucky that or fortunate that you were able to attend Lawrence High, or do you think you would have been better off in an all-black school, say like Sumner?

MRS. HICKS: That's a tough question because I have never been in a black situation, all-black situation.

MR. NETHER: Think for a minute and maybe something about Lawrence High that you would like to point out.

MRS. HICKS: I liked Lawrence High at the time I came through because we were tracked, and this sounds very strange because a lot of people don't like the tracking system, but I was tracked into the upper class. I got the best teachers, it allowed me to get eight hours of calculus for college credit before I got out and really those teachers that I had gave me a sense of direction on where I wanted to go, but the one thing about Lawrence High is that if you weren't tracked in that upper section you got as you went down being tracked. It was a hindrance, it really was.

MR. NETHER: Did you ever go to a counselor and he'd say, "Well, Debbie, your grades prove that you are capable, more than capable, of doing college work and you should attend and try to be anything, try to be a professional?"

MRS. HICKS: This may sound strange, but I only went to my counselor once, and that was to sign up for the ACT test because I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

MR. NETHER: Do you think the counselors on the most part though encourage college attendance by the blacks at Lawrence High?

MRS. HICKS: I really don't know, Curtis. I don't know what they did, because I never got near their office. Was never that much concerned.

MR. NETHER: The reason I asked that too, a lot of blacks are not steered toward college. They are steered toward vocations or early days in the 1920s most of the blacks were domestics, and they were steered toward that line. I was wondering during 1968 and '69, were they still trying to steer blacks in one direction?

Deb, I want you again to think back as far as you can. And try to tell me how do you feel blacks and whites related to one another in Douglas County. Okay. As a little girl, the first involvement you had with the county, was there a lot of discrimination? Was there Jim Crow facilities? Was it opportunity for advancement for blacks?

MRS. HICKS: Curtis, within our own community which was the farming community, we didn't have that many problems because if a farmer owned a piece of equipment and another man needed it, they loaned it, but within the Lawrence community itself I went to an all-black church simply because my mother wanted to give me a black experience. Also, I don't think that blacks went to white churches and whites didn't come to white churches. We stayed in our own lines but downtown I don't think that there were those kind of problems. If there were, I was not aware of them, because we just didn't go in and eat, because being farmers, we had enough food at home and that kind of thing. I never had any problems buying clothes or anything like that as far as I know, but within Lawrence itself we knew that there were certain communities we only lived in, and that when you were waited on, it was only white people, that kind of thing.

MR. NETHER: So you still had a reminder.

MRS. HICKS: Oh, yes.

MR. NETHER: That you were black?


MR. NETHER: Debbie, where did most of the blacks live here in Douglas County? This is going far back again, your early account of history here.

MRS. HICKS: Within Lawrence, they lived in what we consider east Lawrence, basically. And like I said, out in the county we usually all lived right there together in one section, and that's basically what I can remember, being small, was that everybody lived in east Lawrence.

MR. NETHER: What was south Lawrence like?

MRS. HICKS: South Lawrence. Of course, Lawrence wasn't built out as far when I was growing up as it is now, and south Lawrence to me was just simply the filling station that we always gassed up at, really.

MR. NETHER: That's something to be remembered right there.

MRS. HICKS: And the skating rink, because we used to go skating all the time.

MR. NETHER: Okay. What about west Lawrence?

MRS. HICKS: Oh, west Lawrence then at the time was the new district going up and they were the ritzy, ritzy people. I was unimpressed.

MR. NETHER: What about north Lawrence?

MRS. HICKS: I had a music teacher over there in north Lawrence and I remember I never wanted to go because it always looked so junky.


MRS. HICKS: And because of the bridge. But I guess I just remember that over there in north Lawrence my mother always pointing out the school that the black kids used to attend and my great-uncle [Sherman Harvey] used to teach at.

MR. NETHER: Really, Lincoln?


MR. NETHER: Lincoln School?

MRS. HICKS: I think it's Lincoln, yeah.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, I am going to ask you to answer some questions about periods in history now as it related or pertained to black history here in Douglas County. You won't be able to answer all these questions because you are not quite old enough to have been around then, but you may have heard something about them, maybe your dad has told you something, and if you can, just kind of relate them to us. Debbie, what have you heard about the Civil War period here in Douglas County for black people?

MRS. HICKS: What I have heard about it is that Lawrence was one good place to be, even though that they still had racial problems here. It was still a good place to be because it meant protection. Of course, 1863 is when my great-grandmother came up so this became a place of security for her, and she remembered the troops. I have heard about the troops coming through, and that there at the Bowersock Mill there was a type of pull car that they used to bring slaves across from north Lawrence to the main part of Lawrence on a waterway, and of course Quantrill's Raid, I have heard a lot about that.

MR. NETHER: What can you tell me about Quantrill's Raid?

MRS. HICKS: According to several different people in our family and I do know that this is true, that my great-grandmother's picture is at Spencer Library for having been a survivor of Quantrill's Raid. Now, the story goes that Quantrill came through and I had a great-aunt by the name of Annie Brooks, who laid down in the corn field and was missed by Quantrill. Then she ran and got her mother and they went to the top of Blue Mound and watched the raid, and I have heard the story about the Negro boy who ran from Eudora to the sheriff's office who happened to be right below my grandmother to inform him that Quantrill was coming.

MR. NETHER: Which direction did Quantrill come?

MRS. HICKS: As I always understood it, Curtis, it's that he followed the creek around. He came in from Eudora, but he followed the Wakarusa Creek and it winds around, and he passed the Harvey farm over to the Meair's farm and then came in from the north into Lawrence.

MR. NETHER: I have always wondered that because I have read different views about which direction he actually came. Do you know the name of this black man that ran from Eudora to Lawrence to warn of Quantrill?

MRS. HICKS: No, I don't. I have never heard his name.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, after the Civil War came a period of time when blacks were at least on paper equal to whites. This was known as the Reconstruction and it was eventually overturned. White supremacy again evolved in the South. Many blacks started to leave. Kansas was one of the first places they came. Can you remember anything that pertains to black history now about this period of time directly following Reconstruction?

MRS. HICKS: No. Curtis, I don't know anything about that, except that during that time my grandmother would have been sending all three of her sons to college, and she did. She sent my grandfather. He was the first black to play football at KU. My great uncle and he eventually became a doctor, then I had another uncle who went to college for a while, and I don't know whether he graduated or not, but anyway, he eventually went into the service.

MR. NETHER: Could you tell us the names of your grandfather, and your great uncles?

MRS. HICKS: My grandfather's name was Ed, then there was Sherman, and I can't think of the other one's name [Frederick] right now. That escapes me.

MR. NETHER: What years did your grandfather attend KU?

MRS. HICKS: 1890 something to—I think 1899—maybe 1896 to 1899.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, don't be offended by me asking you these years. I don't really expect you to remember all these years, but I am searching. So don't worry too much about that. Debbie, have you ever heard what it was like for your grandfather when he attended KU? Was he accepted readily at the University, or did he have to play a particular role suited for only black people?

MRS. HICKS: According to my relatives he was always accepted because the Harveys were well thought of, but I don't know. My mother has always said that he had a conflict, he never knew a color barrier. He would call somebody black in a minute and didn't realize that he was dark himself, so I guess my grandfather was a strange person.

MR. NETHER: This is your father's father?

MRS. HICKS: Yes, this is my father's father.

MR. NETHER: During the early part, the turn of the century, was a period of time also when blacks were being lynched, Ku Klux Klan running rampant and was a time when atrocities were at the highest peak for blacks. Then came World War I. World War I was said to be the war they stood in line to fight. Have you heard anything about this period as far as black history here in Douglas County?

MRS. HICKS: I haven't heard a thing about that.

MR. NETHER: The reason I asked that one, I am trying to find out were blacks anxious and willing to go fight a war when they were being mistreated here in the United States? What about the Roaring '20s? What did your mother and father do in the '20s?

MRS. HICKS: My mother will kill you for that, Curtis. My mother wasn't born—she might have been born, but I don't think she's old enough to remember much of that.

MR. NETHER: What was your father doing for fun in the '20s?

A. He doesn't usually talk about the '20s. He talks more about the '0s and the '40s.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, after 1929 stock market crash came the Depression. Terrible time for people and also, as you know, terrible time for black people. How did your father earn a living during the '30s?

A. Of course, my father and his parents farmed and so they would put in their crops and then they would go around and they would help everyone else. It was a time of sharing, and helping everyone. So basically what they did was farm.

MR. NETHER: Going back to the '20s again, what was it like on the farm during the '20s for your parents, for your father, if you remember that?

A. I imagine that it was just simply farming--getting up early, doing the chores, walking to school and then back.

MR. NETHER: Wasn't the worse decade that they had, they could remember, was it?

MRS. HICKS: I don't think so, Curtis, because they very seldom talk about that time, so it could be something they just don't talk about.

MR. NETHER: '20s and '30s were bad times for farmers. That's why I asked.

MRS. HICKS: They had some good farm ground and, basically I guess as long as they were helping one another and they had enough to eat themselves, they just weren't concerned.

MR. NETHER: Was your father able to remain employed throughout the Depression?

MRS. HICKS: I don't know, Curtis. I know my father went to welding school, and I am sure that this was sometime in the late '30s or the early '40s, so I am not sure what he did.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, have you heard anything about World War II? Did your father fight in World War II?

MRS. HICKS: No. My father was drafted and he went into the draft board, explained that he was a farmer, and they wouldn't draft him because they said that they needed the food as much as they did the fighting men.

MR. NETHER: Kansas always gets away with that. Farmers get those deferments. Do you think he was willing and anxious to fight in World War II?

MRS. HICKS: No. My father is not a fighting man.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, in 1954 was Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education. Separation was now illegal. What effect did this have on Douglas County?

MRS. HICKS: I imagine, Curtis, that was the time that Lincoln finally closed. I am not sure but my father always went to predominantly white schools because he went to country schools and by the way, when they graduated from eighth grade they went from eighth grade to sophomore. They never did go take the ninth grade, and of course he went to Lawrence High, which was then Central, and they did have separate things to do, but I don't know how that actually affected Lawrence because all the blacks did attend school at least from sophomore on up with the whites.

MR. NETHER: What were you doing during the Vietnam War?

MRS. HICKS: I was attending the University of Kansas, basically.

MR. NETHER: Was there a lot of campus unrest that related to the war?

MRS. HICKS: Tremendously so. My freshman year, school was called out early. We didn't have to take any finals and that was the best thing that ever happened to us. We had the choice, we could either take the final if we wanted to or we could take the grade that we had or we could work something out with our professor. So I virtually ended my freshman year without taking any finals.

MR. NETHER: Why do you think there was so much unrest about the Vietnam War? This is a personal opinion and we understand that.

MRS. HICKS: I think that people were just tired. The boys didn't want to go to war; they didn't want to leave. They just didn't believe in it, and of course at that time there was a lot of black unrest up on the campus too, and that didn't seem to help matters.

MR. NETHER: Do you think the racial unrest and the Vietnam War protest kind of worked hand in hand?

MRS. HICKS: Not for KU. They worked opposite.

MR. NETHER: Did you have a lot of blacks demonstrating against the Vietnam War?

MRS. HICKS: I think so, but basically their cry was why spend money on a war when we have got people in poverty, we have got people in need here, we need to be working on our own racial imbalance than trying to make freedom for someone across the waters.

MR. NETHER: Did you have any whites that were involved with trying to help the racial problems?

MRS. HICKS: Yes. And especially a lot of white women.

MR. NETHER: Do you remember why there was black unrest besides the money spent for the war? What were some of the demands that blacks were making?

MRS. HICKS: Basically it was an outcry for more jobs, more black teachers, we wanted to become involved, that kind of thing. We wanted a say so, that if we are going to send our black men if the men are going to go, then we want more say so in our government. That's the way I kind of read it.

MR. NETHER: Did Lawrence High become involved with the racial unrest? Were there protests at the high school?

MRS. HICKS: Yes, and riots, and basically it was led by KU students who had never been to Lawrence High, never attended it. They didn't know anything about it as far as I was concerned.

MR. NETHER: Were the demands basically the same, or were they different?

MRS. HICKS: I think they were basically the same: black teachers, black courses.

MR. NETHER: Did the cry for the reasons for the unrest, did it seem to stem from the fact that blacks felt alienated in a white society here?

MRS. HICKS: I think basically so here at this time.

MR. NETHER: When you think about wanting a cheerleader and wanting a spring queen and so on, you think that's kind of a feeling that you are not involved with the school?

MRS. HICKS: Right.

MR. NETHER: Who were some of the black leaders of this movement?

MRS. HICKS: The one that I remember the most was Darrel Bright. He was out of Chicago and he was president of the Black Student Union up on the hill, and then there was another young lady by the name of Debbie Hicks, lives in Topeka now, where she was originally from Topeka, and she was very much into it.

MR. NETHER: What roll did John Spearman play?

MRS. HICKS: Oh, Curtis. John Spearman, as far as I was concerned, didn't do very much. You are talking about John Spearman Sr., I presume?

MR. NETHER: No, junior.

MRS. HICKS: You are talking about John Spearman Jr. He is my age. I was a little disappointed in John because I went to high school with him. He was on the gymnastics team. He was in all the advanced classes that he wanted to be in. Then when he got out of high school, he said, "I was used." I could never figure out how you are used when somebody's giving you knowledge, and he took what Lawrence High had given him and went on and graduated from university, you know, and I really felt at that time instead of saying he was used, he should have said there are problems, yes, but there's also some good, because look what I did, you know. But instead he became very militant, so I was kind of disappointed in him.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, were there any community people that were involved when all the racial unrest was taking place?

MRS. HICKS: Yes. Are you are talking about after the Vietnam War or earlier?

MR. NETHER: What I am trying to see here is if not only students were involved with trying to fight for rights, rights that they felt they didn't have, that they did not have. Did community people, did people like your mother and so on—

MRS. HICKS: Yes, but like they started in the early 1960s fighting for civil rights and my mother and Vernell Spearman and a lot of our ministers like Reverend H. C. McMillan, who is now in Omaha, they began to push for like people working downtown, fair housing, but they did it through the church. They did it through church organizations and they were slowly working and eventually they began to break down barriers and John Spearman Sr. began to work with things, and then Mrs. Southard, Merle Southard, I think, began to push for things, and the became more of a radical kind of people like Howard Walker and the Vanns and so forth.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, what do you think was the general reaction here in Lawrence when Tiger Dowdell was shot?

MRS. HICKS: It was split. The younger kids felt horror. They were angry. The older ones who had lived here in Lawrence all their life, they were kind of angry, but they were more tired of the situation. I go to the same church that Tiger had gone to, and this is an interesting point in that they had two ministers at the funeral. I did not attend because I didn't want to be involved in a tricky situation like that. But our minister of our church tried to preach the message of love and understanding and nonviolence. That was the group that believed you couldn't do things outside the law, then expect to get something done inside the law. And then they had another minister come out of Detroit, and I can't remember what his name was. First minister's name was Reverend Larkin. The second minister of course preached violence. You have to do it. But I think that was the breaking point for a lot of blacks, because as I understand it that there had been a plot to come off that night that he was killed, and that they were going to try to burn Lawrence down and they were going to start burning it from four different directions, but it didn't come off because he got killed before anything could be done. The leaders and I had a cousin who was very much involved in this, they disappeared. The girls went to Topeka and the boys went to Kansas City, and they called back to say, "Has anybody been looking for me?" And it was a lot of the kids, when they began to find that the people that they had looked up to were gone, it really shocked them, really put them into a tizzy and a lot of kids were, like this was so unfair, because Tiger had a lot of possibilities and it was just plain shock to them, I guess.

MR. NETHER: The people that were kind of instigating the demonstration, were they all from out of town?

MRS. HICKS: Most of them were. They were from either Topeka or Chicago or so forth. As I look back on it now, I see really no strong leaders coming from Lawrence, none.

MR. NETHER: Not even John Spearman?

MRS. HICKS: Not even John Spearman. I don't think he was that strong. I really don't.

MR. NETHER: Do you think that what they did at that time accomplished anything? Were they able to do in one summer what it was taking some of the concerned parents of the community to do?

MRS. HICKS: No. they had undone a lot of the things that were really done, because like when I was growing up, when I was in high school, we had black kids working all in the stores, we had black people somewhere in every store. That's not true today. Just from Lawrence High, even though we had a lot of kids involved, I look at Lawrence high and I still see even though we have black cheerleaders and so forth, look at the other clubs, very few people in student council, very few people in the upper classes, what I consider an upper class. No black kids in calculus. No black kids in the advanced English classes. They are just not there, and it seems like we have slipped back into the same thing. We are not going anywhere.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, were there any black professionals here that you can remember like lawyers or doctors?

MRS. HICKS: Not while I was growing up. Now, my great uncle was a doctor and he came here for a while and we did have a couple of lawyers, but as I understand it nobody would go to them so they just didn't come. We don't have any now as far as I know, not really. We don't have any lawyers, we don't have any doctors, you know, and even the ministers seem to be lax. There's not even a forceful leader here to say, "Look, we need to make more progress." No one has come out to say that recently so it looks like to me that we haven't done anything. We are still back where we were.

MR. NETHER: Was there ever a period of time when parents were really involved with the education of their children when they would get involved in things like the PTA, attend football games, attend track meets and so on?

MRS. HICKS: When I came along and then, of course, when my sister came along, which is Karen, of course Karen came along at a time when Lawrence High was undefeated in football. My parents always participated and there was a group that were concerned, and of course that's how we got to all the games and everything, our parents had to take us. We didn't take busses and that kind of thing, so, yeah, parents went and they were involved.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, when you were growing up here, what did you do for fun?

MRS. HICKS: Basically when I was younger, before my teens, there were a group of nine cousins—my sister and my brother and then our other cousins--and we would fish, and we would ride bikes and that kind of thing. Of course, we lived out in the country. We had enough for our own baseball team so it was a farm-type community where all the kids got together and played, and since we were all in the same area it meant we were all black but we had a good team. As I grew up there wasn't anything to do basically in Lawrence and I think that's very true today for the teenagers, there's just no place to go except to the movies and then home.

MR. NETHER: Why do you think so many young blacks from Lawrence leave after they grow up?

MRS. HICKS: I think basically because they are looking for more money. As I always looked at it I kept telling myself, I am leaving Lawrence because Lawrence doesn't offer anything for anybody, but after I got out, I discovered that Lawrence really isn't that bad. It's a nice community to raise your kids in, but I think basically blacks who grow up in Lawrence and I think this holds true for the white kids too, they look around Lawrence and they don't see anything. There's no place to go dancing, no 21 clubs. There are a few, but it's just not what they want, and basically these kids grow up, they are looking for more money, and Lawrence is not that big economically.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, do you know anyone on welfare or have you ever known anyone on welfare?

MRS. HICKS: Yes. I know a lot of folks on welfare.

MR. NETHER: Did you relate to these people? Do they seem to brag or be proud of the fact that they are on government relief?

MRS. HICKS: I know several people who are like that and at first they don't have time. But the people that I know are very capable of working. They are just not working. They have children, and they just decided that they would rather be home with their children than out working, and I feel like a lot of mothers would like to be home, with their children, without working. I have a hard time accepting women with illegitimate children or whatever who are capable of working who could probably get a job and won't.

MR. NETHER: Do you think there are class distinctions here among blacks?

MRS. HICKS: Not as much as class distinctions as where you are from. If you are from Mississippi and Lawrence is basically half Mississippi, half Lawrence, you stay with Mississippi. Or if you are native Lawrence, you can cross the line into Mississippi but they won't cross their line into yours. Basically what I have noticed is that the Lawrence girls will date Mississippi men, but Lawrence men do not date Mississippi women. It's kind of broken up into that.

MR. NETHER: What about as far as some of your professors maybe on the Hill, maybe your school teachers at the high school compared to the farmers, compared to the people that's on welfare? Do you think blacks generally relate to each other pretty well or it's kind of an uppity thing where I am educated so I don't want—

MRS. HICKS: Yeah, I think that there is that kind of uppity thing. Because going to a black church and then I have relatives that go to other black churches, we keep wondering where these college professors are. We don't see them. Some of the high school teachers we see. Others we don't. And the question that I think a lot of the community asks is okay, if we started hollering for black teachers and black people and after we got them their jobs, where are they? They are not in our communities, so they must be with the white community and if that's so, then is this really a black awareness for my child? And I think that's one of the questions that's asked quite often.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, do you attend church?

MRS. HICKS: Yes. I go to St. Luke AME Church.

MR. NETHER: How long have you participated in this church?

MRS. HICKS: All my life except for a couple of years where I played piano at St. James AME Church, which is across the river.

MR. NETHER: Do you see any major changes in the church that has taken place?

MRS. HICKS: There are no major changes in our church.

MR. NETHER: Pretty still basically the same. Ceremonial aspects the same and so on?


MR. NETHER: Are people still enthusiastic about attending? Do you have a lot of young people that attend now as much as there used to be?

MRS. HICKS: Just a little more, Curtis. We have a good group coming along and they are excited about it, so a lot more than what we did have.

MR. NETHER: Do you think people, black people today, generally are as religious as they have been?

MRS. HICKS: No, I don't. I don't think that the youth coming along has the faith that those older people had. The older people didn't mind waiting. They didn't mind struggling for something they wanted. These young people today, they want it now or you can forget it. They are through.

MR. NETHER: Would you want your children to live here?

MRS. HICKS: I think that this would be a good starting place for my children, but I don't think I would want them to go to college here. I think I would want them to move on.

MR. NETHER: Do you go out of town much?

MRS. HICKS: Yes, I do.

MR. NETHER: Where do you go?

MRS. HICKS: I go to Kansas City or Topeka.

MR. NETHER: Why do you go?

MRS. HICKS: Because I just don't find any place here for good recreation. If I want to go out dancing, I want to be able to go out and enjoy myself, so I go out of town.

MR. NETHER: Debbie, is there something you can recall now that would be useful or helpful to use on our project, just anything at all that related to black history here in Douglas County?

MRS. HICKS: We talked a lot about my father's father, but we never did talk about my father's mother's people who are the Henrys and they came out of western Kansas to what is called Brumbaugh, and that's within Douglas County. It's on the line next to Pleasant Grove, and I really don't know too much about that side of the family except that they were a prominent family, and that they owned a lot of property up there.

MR. NETHER: Have you heard much about Bloomington?

MRS. HICKS: No, I haven't.

MR. NETHER: About Clinton?

MRS. HICKS: Just from what I have heard from Mrs. Kimball and that side of the family.

MR. NETHER: So your grandmother, her side of the family actually did not migrate west but they came from west to east?

MRS. HICKS: Uh-huh.

MR. NETHER: Where did they come from?

MRS. HICKS: I'm not sure, just some place out of western Kansas, but I know that they basically came out of Ohio into Kansas and then here to Lawrence.

MR. NETHER: Do you know why they decided to migrate back east?

MRS. HICKS: No, I don't.

MR. NETHER: She wasn't coming to see your grandfather?



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