Helen "Mumbi" Kimball

Helen Kimball is the daughter of Leslie and Minnie Lee Kimball, who are also interviewed for this project. Other Kimball family members are interviewed for the twenty-first-century interviews. She grew up in Bloomington, Kansas, and later moved to the Pinckney School neighborhood in Lawrence. She talks extensively about racial relationships in the Lawrence school system and at KU.

Helen "Mumbi" Kimball
Interview by Curtis Nether

MR. NETHER: What's your name?

MS. KIMBALL: My given name is Helen Kimball and I am known as Mumbi.

MR. NETHER: What is your age, Mumbi?

MS. KIMBALL: Twenty-nine.

MR. NETHER: Do you have any children?


MR. NETHER: What's your parents' names?

MS. KIMBALL: Leslie Clarence Kimball and Minnie Lee Clayborne Kimball.

MR. NETHER: Where were your parents born, let's say your father first, then your mother?

MS. KIMBALL: One was born in Bloomington, Kansas, and the other in it's called Arkansas City, Kansas.

MR. NETHER: Ark City.

MS. KIMBALL: Ark City. But I am confused all the time about which is which. I think my mother is Bloomington.

MR. NETHER: That's right. I have interviewed your parents and that is true.

MS. KIMBALL: Oh, good.

MR. NETHER: You say your mother was born in Bloomington. When did her parents come to Bloomington?

MS. KIMBALL: I don't have any first-hand knowledge of my grandparents on either side.

MR. NETHER: One thing I should have mentioned too, Mumbi, if you can't answer something, don't worry about it because lot of times I just search for answers so don't worry about that.


MR. NETHER: Has your mother ever told you why her parents came to Douglas County?


MR. NETHER: Can you remember anything that she has told you about Bloomington? Bloomington was an all-black district before Nicodemus, and Nicodemus is the most celebrated black community, so it's an important city which should be remembered. Can you remember anything about it, the streets, the people, anything?

MS. KIMBALL: My mother has talked frequently and with a great deal of pride about the way that they were educated. She was very proud of the fact that Bloomington had all-black schools, and she felt that at that time they were very well educated. Very well educated in the sense that she was pleased with the type of learning environment that took place in that all-black area.

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, did any whites at all live in Bloomington, from hearsay?

MS. KIMBALL: That, I don't know.

MR. NETHER: Do you know any way in which the schools were coordinated? This idea that schools must be integrated, that the black schools are inferior, of the idea which a lot of people had for a long time. Bloomington was successful in educating their children. How did they coordinate it? Do you have any information about that?


MR. NETHER: Or anyone that was real progressive in coordinating the schools there?

MS. KIMBALL: I don't know who that would be.

MR. NETHER: Don't worry. Those are the kind of questions I should be asking your mother and not you.

Mumbi, I want you to think back now. You say you are twenty-nine years old. I want you to think back to when you could first recall things, when you were a very young girl. What did Douglas County look like to you? Can you give me a visual picture?

MS. KIMBALL: Douglas County was full of a lot of countryside. Everything, you know, like fruit trees were abundant; everything that you would think of in nature was abundant. Whether that would be cows or horses in the neighborhood I grew up in, there was one man on one corner that kept horses and another man down at the other corner that actually had a stable, and there were dogs and cats and everything that you think of in nature existed in abundance. Walnut trees, mulberry trees, everything you think of as when I relate to a childhood, everything was there and in abundance.

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, what side of town or what section of town did you live in?

MS. KIMBALL: [Old] West Lawrence.

MR. NETHER: Is that where your parents live now?

MS. KIMBALL: That's true.

MR. NETHER: That particular area over there, what was the ratio, just approximately now, ratio of blacks to whites living in [old] west Lawrence?

MS. KIMBALL: I would say something like one black to ten whites. I would just say that as a rough estimate.

MR. NETHER: So black people living in west Lawrence was a definite minority?

MS. KIMBALL: Oh, very definite minority, but we had our neighborhoods nevertheless.

MR. NETHER: All right. Where were the blacks concentrated then in these neighborhoods, any certain streets or blocks that you can recall?

MS. KIMBALL: Michigan Street, Wisconsin. Our family was so large you would have to include California Street just because our family was on it. [Old] West Lawrence at the time I was growing up had not extended west nearly—anywhere near to the extent that it has now. It went west about to Iowa, was as far west as it went, and then you would go down to say Mass. Street, and I don't recall that there were areas at that time that blacks were really what you would call secluded from, so to speak, because we were just kind of here and there.

MR. NETHER: What about north Lawrence across the river? What do you recall about that when you were a very, very young, little young lady?

MS. KIMBALL: I probably related in terms of north Lawrence, I related most to the just in terms of the lay of the land, I related to the fact that there were trains, that the area was not as developed. I related to the notion of flood because there was a flood in '50 or '51, and since I was born in '48 that was always something I was aware of, and just a lower standard of living, but nevertheless very relaxed atmosphere.

MR. NETHER: Was it very many black farmers or gardeners that lived in north Lawrence, do you recall?

MS. KIMBALL: At the time I felt like just about everybody over there either had an acre or two or they at least had a garden.

MR. NETHER: That's important.

MS. KIMBALL: Yeah. I didn't know anyone over there that didn't.

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, again, these are kind of difficult questions but I am asking you to think way back now, possibly maybe three or four years of age. How did whites and black people relate to each other? Did you have white friends? Could you go anywhere you wanted? What was it like for you to grow up in white environment?

MS. KIMBALL: I think my first recollection is when I went to kindergarten that I went half day to a church that during the week the downstairs at least was a half-basement- type thing was used for kindergarten, and I recall very well then that I was very cognizant of the fact that I was black and that other students were not black, the way I politically think of it now. So race consciousness came at a very early age. The degree of familiarity or just being with little whites or whatever, white kids at that time varied with the nature of the event or the reason that we came together to begin with. When I was growing up, everything I did until I was eighteen years of age, and I do mean 99.9 percent, all centered around church, school, or home. My parents were very—I guess I would have to just give them credit because what they seemed to do, whether they realized it or not, our lives were filled with activities, so we didn't really have time to question that we weren't being exposed and realize there were a lot of things that we weren't being exposed to at all, because between church, school, and home we had an abundance of things to do. But at the same time, in Girl Scouts and all that, it was just the thing of as long as you stay in your place, you are welcome.

MR. NETHER: You had your own environment and so you really weren't that much concerned, now I am not putting words in your mouth, but I am just kind of asking here, you had your own environment so you really weren't that interested in relating to white people or intermingling with white people. You couldn't go to a restaurant or a movie you understood that you were black and that was the reason why, but it didn't bother you so much because you had church, home, and school for your activities to evolve around.

MS. KIMBALL: It did bother me though. It bothered me to the extent that I had brothers and sisters who had preceded me and some of them were kids in my family and my parents, you know, in Lawrence had the reputation of being good people, which in Lawrence even today is very important, whether or not you have the reputation of being good people. It's been documented that Lawrence did for a number of years have a tracking system, may still have it, but it was documented at one time in the 1960s, late '60s when everything was happening, and I think I was in the positive end of the tracking system for blacks.

As I remember it, the tracking system involved three things: either very little effort was extended towards your education, or you were in the middle, which means that you got a decent education, and there was an effort made towards helping you progress, and then there were the others and there was the assumption that they would excel and so it was like self-fulfilling prophecy. So many of the kids I went to school with were in that first group, the bottom rung, whereas because my family had a good reputation and I had brothers and sisters who had preceded me and we knew how to act right, we were trained how to "act firth," and I am using that in quotes, then we were put in that middle group which gave us exposure to kids that were in that group and might at some point go on to the higher. Now, there was never any consideration that we might belong in that really top group and we might show that much promise because, of course, we were black, but we were in the middle group, we were treated fairly decent. Trying to get back specifically to what you were saying, it was apparent and I did notice distinctions. I noticed when I was in Girl Scouts and we would go around and decide who would bring cookies for the next meeting, and I would be bypassed with the assumption that I wouldn't be able to afford it. When I knew that I would have done anything, been willing to do anything to try to come up with the money to be able to bring the cookies. Anything meaning get a job at home and maybe get a dime here, do anything, or work or do something for my mother, whatever, so they would be willing to come up with this extra money, so I could bring the ginger snaps the next week.

MR. NETHER: They would take for granted, you felt, that people would take for granted that simply because you were black you were expected to act or be a certain way?

MS. KIMBALL: (Nods.)

MR. NETHER: You could have afforded the cookies, you could have got the cookies, but because you were black they assumed that you couldn't?

MS. KIMBALL: I could have done something so that I could have come up with the cookies, but they made the assumption I couldn't. At other times, too, I remember to this day like we used to always have math lessons in the fourth grade when I had this teacher named Mrs. Stein. I will not forget her because when everybody did math, she had me cleaning out cupboards, and this was a regular weekly thing.

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, when you first started school, were you at any time the only black child in your class?

MS. KIMBALL: Sure. I was isolated many times like that.

MR. NETHER: What school did you attend, elementary school?

MS. KIMBALL: The kindergarten was at church which at that time was at Sixth and Maine on the southwest corner. Then all my grade school was at Pinckney. All my junior high was at West Junior High and all my high school was at Lawrence High.

MR. NETHER: While you were in school, say grammar school, did you have anyone that ever tried to teach you about the progressiveness of black people?


MR. NETHER: So no black studies classes?


MR. NETHER: What about when you were in West Junior High?


CURTIS NETHER: Lawrence High School?


MR. NETHER: No time. And grade school again, did you ever have any black instructors or administrators in your school?

MS. KIMBALL: No. As a matter of fact, it was not until I was in the sixth grade that I ever even had a male teacher and I thought that was tremendous. I had a man teacher for the first time, so I had this one teacher, Mr. Garcia, that always came around and taught art. That was the first man teacher I had ever been exposed to.

MR. NETHER: How would you evaluate the level of education that you acquired in grade school: good, fair, bad, poor?

MS. KIMBALL: Average.

MR. NETHER: What do you think, asking for opinion now, what do you think could have made your grade school more progressive for you? What do you think could have maybe inspired you to be a better person, to be a better student, to put value on education once you had got to junior high and also high school and later on in life?

MS. KIMBALL: The personal attention that I saw was being given to some students and not to others. I felt like if I had been given that personal attention.

MR. NETHER: I try to stay away from personal opinion questions. Do you feel that if you had had a black teacher or some black which you could have looked up to or related to that possibly, you would have been a better student, you would have been a different person later on?

MS. KIMBALL: That depends, because so many blacks at this time were so predominately naive about their black value system that it's hard to say. A black instructor might very well have provided me with what in an end result be negative aspect because white instructors, I related to them as white folks and I felt all the time like we basically internally don't have anything in common, and that was always my basic philosophy. We really don't have anything in common inside. So I was able in many respects to brush them off. But I don't know how I would have been able to and it would have all depended on where that black person's head was at.

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, were there class distinctions between blacks themselves? You mentioned a tracking system before where you had what I would call the so- called elite blacks who had a chance, who had parents, maybe were doctors, lawyers, had a chance to excel, down the line, in the system. How did these blacks relate to one another?

MS. KIMBALL: In Lawrence even as it is today we didn't have lawyers and doctors. I don't recall that we ever did. I have certainly never had a black physician. So we would be talking about people whose parents had good jobs and who worked steady as opposed to people whose parents did unskilled labor and or didn't work steadily, so those would be the distinctions. Given those distinctions, there were class distinctions made, but it was more a joke than anything else.

MR. NETHER: What about the rural blacks that would come into town? How did some of the Lawrence city blacks relate to them? Was it a good relationship, open relationship, or what, if any?

MS. KIMBALL: Oh, it would just vary from situation to situation. As I can remember, my contacts with people, rural people, rural blacks, stem more from the church than anything else. That's where I would come in contact with them and then the rapport with them did not usually have anything to do with the fact that they were rural.


MS. KIMBALL: Stem from other things?

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, before you attended high school, did you have any people that you looked up to, any heroes, anybody that you wanted to be like?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes. I have always had heroes. I w ill have to remember now who that might have been at that time.

MR. NETHER: And while you are thinking, think of it from a ninth-grade point of view when you were just now getting ready to go to high school.

MS. KIMBALL: Yes. Athletes. Not athletes like I wanted to date athletes. I mean professional athletes like you would see on TV. I used to like to read their biographies. I remember I read about Big Daddy Lipscomb, and I remember I just fell apart when he died, suddenly. But even then I read about Johnny Unitas and I had older brothers who were athletes, but I mean professional athletes.

MR. NETHER: We were reading the same things then. They never did really find out how Big Daddy died. They said it was an overdose, but he never did mess with narcotics or anything, so it was kind of strange how he died.

How did you feel when you were now getting ready to go to high school? You had brothers there before you that preceded you there?

MS. KIMBALL: Uh-huh, and sisters.

MR. NETHER: How did you feel? Were you anxious? Were you nervous? Were you afraid?

MS. KIMBALL: At the time, just about all my other brothers and sisters went through school with someone else in at least the same building, but it wasn't that way with me and it wasn't that way with Larry, my younger brother. We were the only two that didn't have a brother or sister that would at least be going to the same school, because we were separated by that many years, so I was very apprehensive, but it was just kind of like not knowing really what to expect and not to have anybody to rely directly upon.

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, were you interested in athletes? Were there any athletes, black athletes, at Lawrence High that were given a chance to play sports that were good, that probably didn't receive recognition?

MS. KIMBALL: Oh, yes. Many, many, many.

MR. NETHER: I want you to think, try to give names of those and the sports that they participated in.

MS. KIMBALL: My brother Bob Kimball was one, football and track. Gosh, there's so many. I would say Mike Harding, basketball. To try to name them would really do injustice to the ones that don't get named because there were so many. I think it's more important to point out the fact that every year just as they still do and do at KU, they would find a great white hope and then they would want to center, focus all the attention, that whole year, regardless. There was a guy named Charley Bowen that was a good friend of my brother Bob's when they were both in high school. Charley was nowhere near the athlete Bobby was. After high school he didn't try to pursue athletics, where Bobby went to Grambling, was on the track team, went to the army, was on the U.S. track team. Bowen didn't even attempt, just something he was doing that particular year. He was excited as a high school student about it, but it wasn't anything beyond that, and he was just the center of attention that whole year, and that's just an example that I can cite where blacks who should have been on the A team were on the B team. Blacks on the A team just weren't given the recognition and opportunity. When they would get, you know, when Lawrence High would get way ahead, they would put blacks out and let somebody else come in and make a lot of points so blacks wouldn't have a real good record on paper which couldn't be disputed. There's so many ways to get ahead of that.

MR. NETHER: How did Woolard, who was a legend at Lawrence High, how did he relate to blacks?

MS. KIMBALL: He was a racist.

MR. NETHER: Did he try to encourage blacks to go out for athletics?

MS. KIMBALL: To the extent that it would make him look good.

MR. NETHER: Did they seem to feel that only a few blacks should play a certain amount of time? What I am saying, did they only have their token blacks playing?

MS. KIMBALL: To a certain extent, that's true. I don't think that they would want to put in so many blacks that it would ever appear like without blacks they wouldn't be able to win these games, but they were strategically placed.

MR. NETHER: What other extracurricular activities did Lawrence High offer their students?

MS. KIMBALL: There was student government. There were intramurals. There were like Biology Club. Leader's Club was a women's athletic organization. Mostly centered around academic-related things like biology, then you have sports related, then you have music and like choir, things like that.

MR. NETHER: Did black students participate in some of these, say, student government, some of these other extracurricular activities?

MS. KIMBALL: When I was going through, yes.

MR. NETHER: Did they participate in large numbers or—


MR. NETHER: Or did they also seem to have their token blacks in certain organizations?

MS. KIMBALL: Blacks weren't really encouraged to be that much involved in student government, but then students in general, student government was something that was nice to be involved with, but they didn't really have any effect on anything out there, so it was something that you just did because you wanted to do it. I ran for student government, I was either in Leader's Club or in student government every year from junior high on up. One year I was a cheerleader. We had that.

MR. NETHER: Did you feel that you were part of Lawrence High?

MS. KIMBALL: I identified with Lawrence High. I did identify with Lawrence High, but I didn't buy a yearbook, I didn't get a class ring. I didn't buy graduation announcements. I didn't go whole hog.

MR. NETHER: If you were a cheerleader, how were cheerleaders picked?

MS. KIMBALL: I was a cheerleader in the ninth grade, and what you did, you went to this little rally after school and you go out on the stage and you did two cheers, and then they had a group of judges, and then they would narrow it down, then they would finally make the decision, but they were not students. They were judges. I think they were probably homeroom teachers and maybe the gym teacher.

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, is there anything about your years in school, in the public schools here in Douglas County, that you would like to point out at this time, maybe something I didn't ask you, something that meant a lot to you or caused you to be who you are or prohibited you from being what you wanted to be that you want to point out now for the record? Take a little time to think. Just anything?

MS. KIMBALL: I think that to the extent that I had been able to excel or to achieve is a better word, had been to the extent I have been able to work myself away from, which takes tremendous effort when it's just ingrained in you, the whole notion of being a good person and that whole turn the other cheek, never speak up for yourself, the whole religious upbringing, the white majority situation, and always being—trying to be— always efforts being to put blacks in a lesser position, to the extent I have been able to remove myself from that indoctrination is the extent that I have been able to achieve.

MR. NETHER: My parents are from the South, from Georgia. Would you say that your parents taught you a little bit of fear of white people growing up, that you had to act in a certain way in order to get along?

MS. KIMBALL: That's true.

MR. NETHER: Because my parents also did. I just wanted to see if it was the same.


MR. NETHER: Which one?

MS. KIMBALL: University of Kansas.

MR. NETHER: What made you attend the University of Kansas out of all the other schools that you possibly had a chance to attend?

MS. KIMBALL: Because that was right in the beginning when they were starting with the National Defense Student Loan then, went to national direct, but those became available and I applied and I was funded.

MR. NETHER: So KU was the place to go?

MS. KIMBALL: Uh-huh.

MR. NETHER: What was your major when you first entered?

MS. KIMBALL: It was really kind of undecided. I changed majors five times during my undergraduate degree.

MR. NETHER: Did you ever have a chance to go to a counselor at Lawrence High School?


MR. NETHER: They never tried to help you with trying to achieve a higher education at all?

MS. KIMBALL: No. I remember having to argue with them that I wanted to be in college preparatory rather than work training, on-the-job training. I remember that argument.

MR. NETHER: Really? What did they do? Did they just bring you in, sit you down, say Mumbi, these are the classes you should take, and none of them were college prep?

MS. KIMBALL: No. I don't remember them working out our schedule so much. That was just something that they just might have looked over. I do remember a particular time in junior high and in high school when we took these tests. They were supposed to be occupation-interest inventory-type things, and so they would point out that career I was headed for, then it would always be something like secretary.

MR. NETHER: Did any other of the black students at Lawrence High want—did many of them prefer or want to go to college?

MS. KIMBALL: Oh, I think practically all would have gone to college if they could have, if it had really been an accessible kind of alternative, but there was so little information about it, about just how you would pursue it and then there really wasn't really support to even to look into it that much and it was really more of an independent effort than anything else. Some families would have that plan for the child and it was really actively pursued but other than that, it was just something you knew about.

MR. NETHER: So if you didn't know someone firsthand that had attended college or if your parents didn't attend college, you didn't have anyone to erase the fallacies what it would be to attend, thought it was kind of hard to get in?

MS. KIMBALL: Right, or even how you would go about even looking into it.

MR. NETHER: So this you say was the counselors didn't provide guidance for blacks that wanted to go to college?

MS. KIMBALL: None. And I don't know of a time when even for instance KU actively worked with Lawrence High School students. If they did, they did it in groups like maybe Biology Club or something like that, that I was not directly involved with, then like with the tracking system, but or maybe white students that were in 4-H or maybe some of these other groups, they did work, but I was not exposed in any way to KU or to college, the whole notion of attending college and the preparation that was required.

MR. NETHER: Was there any Jim Crowism, separation, once you got to Kansas University?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes, but it was always very subtle, the same kind that you might see today.

MR. NETHER: What about something like institutional racism?

MS. KIMBALL: Oh, it's rampant, but it still is.

MR. NETHER: All right. That's a complex question there.

MS. KIMBALL: I understand exactly where you are coming from though, but, yes, it was evident then. It's evident now.

MR. NETHER: Where did mostly blacks seem to have come from that attended KU? Any certain geographical area?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes. Kansas City, Wichita, Topeka, and surrounding areas. You might have a few from New Jersey few from St. Louis, few from Chicago. But KU by and large is a regional school anyway. You have got about 900, a thousand international students and then you have every state in the United States represented, but Kansas University is in the 90th percentile a regional school anyway.

MR. NETHER: At KU did black students there organize, and, if so, when did they attempt to organize themselves?

MS. KIMBALL: I started KU in the fall of 1969 because I went to another school in Kansas City after high school. I was away, so I spent three years after high school before I started KU. So in the fall of '69, I remember that black students had at least been organizing for a year prior to that.

MR. NETHER: Had BSU been started before that time?

MS. KIMBALL: BSU was what I remember having been started about 1968 or '69. No later than '69, but maybe '68.

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, what seemed the ideology behind the BSU? What was its purpose?

MS. KIMBALL: Nothing originates in the Midwest. There are movements that were taking place nationwide, and so a lot of the impetus was coming from movements that had begun elsewhere. People that were cognizant of Malcolm X and how he lived and how he died, and just the whole consciousness-raising aspect of it. A lot of BSU activity stemmed around getting funds from students—black people paying their money in fees and stuff. We need our share to promote our interest, that kind of thing.

MR. NETHER: Did the BSU have any voice? Did they publish any information for black students to read?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes. There were two papers. One was called Harambee and then later there was one called For Our People, and they were both put out by individuals that were members of the BSU. BSU had factions—not in the beginning, it was more after the beginning. BSU had very strong factions and so at one time one particular faction was putting out Harambee, another time a different faction was putting out For Our People.

MR. NETHER: How were these newspapers financed?

MS. KIMBALL: Through the budgeting that was awarded to the Black Student Union, KU student-centered funds.

MR. NETHER: Did BSU advocate a method of doing away with racism which it felt it was living under?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes. BSU promoted recruitment of black faculty after staff and student. They tried to promote curriculum changes and address issues relative to black people. Incorporation of black studies, not only in terms of a Black Studies Department but even possibly a black studies program, but then the reorientation of what already existed so that it would accurately reflect black people.



MR. NETHER: Did the ideology behind some of the newspapers try to inspire blacks to rebel, to reject the system which they were living under?


MR. NETHER: Did it also on the other hand try to help blacks be progressive and stop being lackadaisical about certain issues?

MS. KIMBALL: Oh, yes.

MR. NETHER: Did it try to inspire that also?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes, I would think so.

MR. NETHER: How did it go about getting an African studies program at KU?

MS. KIMBALL: I think the very first meeting I ever attended that was coordinated by the BSU was in fact centered around that issue, and so I can remember the day very well, but even now I wonder  where I was and what was actually going on. The meeting I attended was one where they were discussing the recruitment of a person to chair the Black Studies Department, African Studies Department, and they were discussing the different people that they had in min. The person had been decided upon and they were talking about how this decision had been arrived at, and then the person who came into the position came in and he handed out this thick document about as thick as this one on the table here, and what it amounted to was a state of the union address.

MR. NETHER: Is it Jacob Gordon?

MS. KIMBALL: That was Jacob Gordon. And I remember that I was not impressed and I felt like that with all the people I had been exposed to that with just local people, like Clarence Reynolds and some who could just sit and run things off the top of their head, if it's necessary for him to come in and slap this document on the table, then proceed to read it, then I wondered where he was coming from.

MR. NETHER: If they had people here in Lawrence qualified for the position, why do you think—

MS. KIMBALL: Credentially, they did not though. They didn't have the credentials, because you would need university credentials to be in that type of university position, and you had people with the knowledge but they just didn't have the credentials.

MR. NETHER: That makes a difference. Once you were at KU and you helped to establish an African Studies Department, and blacks are now unified to a point where if anything goes wrong, if they disagree with it, they can stand up and fight for it, did this type of ideology leak out to Lawrence High School? What type of changes now came about at Lawrence High because of this?

MS. KIMBALL: Let I make one thing clear. I came in after that decision had been reached about who would chair that department, so I didn't help do that but I was at that point on. As far as Lawrence High is concerned, students on campus began to get involved with the students there and their concerns. They began to meet with students and Lawrence High School students formed a Black Student Union. Then there was a group called Black Concerned Parents and people from the university, blacks from the university and persons from that organization began to meet together about common concerns, campus and community, and so forth.

MR. NETHER: What was the purpose of the Afro House?

MS. KIMBALL: The Afro House was just supposed to be a location for black KU and community organizing. A lot of it was stemmed around the classes. People would come in and they would teach classes. They would want to develop a library. They would want to have a place where they could come together and communicate.

MR. NETHER: Did they ever set up tutoring programs where finally small black children were taught about black heroes and so on?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes. One aspect, I think it was like the educational committee, something called similar to that, of the BSU. The BSU had different committees. They had political and they had educational. Educational committee would go to grade schools and tutor children.

MR. NETHER: What was the purpose for the community house? Now, I don't know, this is something I got from one of the papers, and I hope that I am not confusing it with community building.

MS. KIMBALL: I don't know because all I know was Afro House and then there was the— I don't know if that's what it was called, but you call it that and that's the only thing that sticks in my mind now, and there was a community building. I don't remember anything being called community house. There was East Lawrence Center, which is city owned, but we did some things out of there for a while, Ballard Center.

MR. NETHER: But no community house?

MS. KIMBALL: No community house.

MR. NETHER: What role did Ballard Center play? What type of work did you do there?

MS. KIMBALL: The Ballard Center was another place where Leonard Harrison was most notably connected with the Ballard Center because he was heading it for a long time.  Because Leonard represented the most "radical" element of the community, and then he had his connections with the campus too, Ballard Center was put on the map.

MR. NETHER: Throughout your life, Mumbi, do you remember some of the movements that took place here in Douglas County, going back say maybe early 1960s where there were the peaceful movements, did they have any in the county?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes. I remember my mother was involved in one. I don't remember how old I was but where they were trying to integrate a swimming pool, and that was a big issue. I knew that it had to be something legitimate and it had to be something really obviously fair for my mother to get involved, and she was heavily involved in that.

MR. NETHER: Do you remember the first radical protest that they had here in Lawrence?

MS. KIMBALL: The first one that I would call radical was in the late 1960s when I was at KU.

MR. NETHER: Can you tell something about it? Who were some of the leaders of the African or the radical, so-called radical movement that took place here in the county?

MS. KIMBALL: The one that I am aware of would be in the late 1960s, '69. I don't think I better answer that because I am uncomfortable doing that.

MR. NETHER: Don't worry about it. What was being advocated at this time? Was it separatism, integration, nationalism, what?

MS. KIMBALL: That was what made the whole thing so exciting in a sense because you had every kind of ideology. You had Pan-Africanists, you had active Panthers, you had Muslims, you had nationalists, so to speak. You had all those different factions, and they were really active.

MR. NETHER: Were black people ever in Lawrence at any time completely ready to separate and be their own selves, to form their own community and so on, completely separated from whites?

MS. KIMBALL: Not predominantly, but there were certain groups who were.

MR. NETHER: Did the movements that took place, the so-called radical movement, was it something that leaked over from the KU to the city in itself where you had city people, college campus people, fighting for the same thing, or did you have college fighting for one faction and city for another? Did they have a homogeneous plan together here?

MS. KIMBALL: Persons who represented a particular faction wanted the common goal, whether it be campus or community to follow that. They weren't fighting for we want control of campus and we want control of community, it wasn't like that.

MR. NETHER: So would you say it worked hand in hand together?

MS. KIMBALL: Right. Where they divided, they divided together too.

MR. NETHER: All right. Okay. Do you attend church here in the county?


MR. NETHER: What church?


MR. NETHER: How long have you attended this church?

MS. KIMBALL: I was raised in the church.

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, do you see any changes in the church that has taken place from when you first attended to now?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes. They don't have a lot of the young children in there.

MR. NETHER: Did the church have a role in the radical movement? Did it take a role, take a stand?

MS. KIMBALL: Most churches took a stand, but they weren't necessarily uniform.

MR. NETHER: The reason I asked that, a lot of Martin Luther King's movements took place in the church, and I want to see if we have periods here where the same thing was actually taking place here.


MR. NETHER: We will try to go fast. I don't know which questions are priority and which aren't. Did the church provide an outlet for social activities with black people in the county?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes, but the further back you go, the more outlet they provided, in more recent years they provided less and less, but I am talking about mainly the church I grew up in. I think the Ninth Street Baptist has been a lot more active.

MR. NETHER: During some of the demonstrations, did blacks arm themselves to completely take over Lawrence?


MR. NETHER: That was what I was wondering. In this time, during this time, can you recall when Rick Dowdell was shot?

MS. KIMBALL: Yes. Very well.

MR. NETHER: I don't want a personal opinion on this. Can you tell me in this book we plan on having, I want to feature Dowdell's picture and so on. Many, many people feel Dowdell was wrong. Things I have been hearing, that he was no good, that some even as far as say that he should have been shot, because he was wrong and he was carrying a gun. Was Rick Dowdell one that was fighting for something that he believed was right?


MR. NETHER: He had that intent. The fact that he violently tried to achieve something that he wanted, is this an idea that many blacks had at this time, many young blacks, peers of Dowdell? Was he unique in this thinking?

MS. KIMBALL: I have to go back to the question because I always felt that his death stemmed more from a self-defense than it did from any kind of initiative that he took. I think he felt that he was acting in self-defense to begin with. Whether or not his action was warranted, that would be subjective, so I don't think I am able to answer the question the way you have put it because I don't feel like he just was out trying to be a one-man army and go out and do something by force. I think that he was put in an intimidating position.

MR. NETHER: That's an important point too. How did blacks react when Dowdell was shot? Was it a violent reaction?

MS. KIMBALL: I feel like the blacks that made any difference felt very sorry. They were sorry and very saddened and you had anywhere from that to angry to afraid, that sort of thing. The ones who took a very cold and callous position are ones that I think probably have difficulty. I mean it could probably be their brother or their mother and it probably wouldn't make any difference because they were so whitewashed, so backward in their thinking, it wouldn't make any difference.

MR. NETHER: Did you attend Rick Dowdell's funeral?

MS. KIMBALL: Uh-huh.

MR. NETHER: What was it like? This was a funeral where a young revolutionary, young progressive revolutionary, had been shot. What was his funeral like here in the county?

MS. KIMBALL: I don't attend funerals any more unless I absolutely have to. His was the saddest that I had ever attended because he was so young, because he was from the community. It was kind of hysteria is what it amounted to. Just kind of like hysteria. He was preceded in death by his mother, who was a young woman too.

MR. NETHER: Mumbi, one personal question: Do you feel Dowdell died for a purpose?


MR. NETHER: This can be something that would help kind of make you feel with emotion, helps me understand what the emotions were like in attending the funeral, that here you have a man who died not only for himself, but for you, for his children and so on. How were the plans made for the funeral? What type was it? Was it a regular funeral or was it one that was initiated to be one that the community would long remember?

MS. KIMBALL: It was organized since there was the understanding that there was not to be a white person in attendance. Everyone was to attempt to wear black. There was a march from one area in Lawrence behind a horse-drawn cart carrying the casket that was draped with a red, green, and black flag. There were two people who spoke at the service. One gave a very traditional service and the other gave a very nontraditional service, let's just say in terms of the message, and blacks were very unified around that, just basically very unified about the sorrow of the whole event. But still when we talk about died for a purpose and all that, I don't feel like it was a revolutionary act that he was engaged in. I think he was a revolutionary but not the act that preceded his death just very directly. I feel like he was in a situation of self-defense. I feel like today you might find a similar situation where blacks who maybe don't have a particular political ideology could find themselves in like situations and could be shot down under the same circumstances. I always feel like that still is political but at the same time that they weren't out trying to be revolutionaries.

MR. NETHER: I see your point, and I think my question was bad on that one. I have read and talked to people about the incident when he was killed. Would you say that if, when he was shot, if he had been up trying to demand voting rights or equal representation or so on, it would have been more of a revolutionary slaying than actually trying to elude a policeman through an alley, where he was fleeing for his life?

MS. KIMBALL: Yeah. I see it as there being equally revolutionary but I am just saying the situation he found himself in where he was shot at, that particular instant could have been any of us and it could have been someone who was not recognized as being involved. I think that particularly with the particular officer that was involved it was a situation that a black man was caught in, and it happens that this black man had a political conscience as well.

MR. NETHER: What happened to the policeman? What was the policeman's name and what happened to that policeman, that white policeman, after he had killed Dowdell?

MS. KIMBALL: I have erased his name from my memory, and he was put on some kind of routine suspension while they investigated it and he was exonerated.

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