Karen Marie Byers

Karen Marie Byers is the oldest daughter of Dean and Dorothy Harvey. Dorothy Harvey is interviewed also for this project and for the two projects which the LDCAAOP did in the twenty-first century. Mrs. Byers provides a mid-twentieth century perspective on racial relationships and on attending Lawrence and Douglas County schools in the 1950s and '60s.

Karen Marie Byers
July 5, 1977

Interview by Curtis Nether

MR. NETHER: What's your name?

MRS. BYERS: Karen Marie Byers.

MR. NETHER: What's your age, Karen?

MRS. BYERS: I am thirty.

MR. NETHER: Do you have any children?

MRS. BYERS: I have two boys.

MR. NETHER: What are their names and ages?

MRS. BYERS: Dwight Leonard Byers Jr., he's nine; and Edward Craig Byers, he's eight.

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

MRS. BYERS: Karen M. Byers and Dwight Leonard Byers Sr.

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

MRS. BYERS: Mr. and Mrs. Dean Harvey.

MR. NETHER: When did your parents come to Douglas County?

MRS. BYERS: My father was born here and my mother came here when she married my father.

MR. NETHER: Where is your mother from?

MRS. BYERS: Kansas City, Kansas.

MR. NETHER: How did your grandparents first come here, if your father was already born here?

MRS. BYERS: My grandparents?

MR. NETHER: Yes, on your mother and father's side.

MRS. BYERS: My father's parents were here. His mother brought him when he was a little boy.

MR. NETHER: That would be your great-great-grandfather?

MRS. BYERS: Right.

MR. NETHER: Did he come with the first major migration here to Kansas, can you remember?

MRS. BYERS: I am not sure about that. I just know his mother brought him up when he was a child through the Underground Railroad.

MR. NETHER: What state did they come from?

MRS. BYERS: I am not sure.

MR. NETHER: When they got here, Karen, did they have acquaintances here already? The point I am trying to make here is why Kansas out of say thirty-two states at the time, why did they want to come here?

MRS. BYERS: I don't know whether it was because it was a free state or whether my great- great-grandmother had already sent some children up, so I understand, and had some friends. I think it was a little bit of both.

MR. NETHER: Karen, now I want you to think back to a time when you were a little girl. Were you born on a farm or in the city or where?

MRS. BYERS: I lived on a farm but I was born here in Lawrence at the hospital, of that's what you mean.

MR. NETHER: Then you moved out and lived on the farm.


MR. NETHER: Throughout your childhood, what was it like on a farm, say, when you were five or six years old, as far back as you can remember? What things can you remember about it?

MRS. BYERS: It was fun. We had chores to do. Had to help in the field, and our neighbors weren't close but the kids always managed to get together and play at least once or twice a week. We would migrate to somebody's house and stay there all day until we knew we had to go home.

MR. NETHER: What kind of games did you play?

MRS. BYERS: We played hide and seek, tag. Each child was interested in farming at the time because that's what their father did, so we all had miniature equipment like our dads and we had little fields out in the yard and we would farm.

MR. NETHER: Were you pretty good at growing things?

MRS. BYERS: Heck, yes.

MR. NETHER: Karen, how many black children were in your immediate surroundings?

MRS. BYERS: There was seven of us. There was my five cousins—no, four cousins and the three of us.

MR. NETHER: Where did your cousins live?

MRS. BYERS: Just up the road not more than a fourth of a mile from our house.

MR. NETHER: Were these the Henrys?

MRS. BYERS: No, these were Harveys. These were my father's brother's children.

MR. NETHER: When you went out and played with the children and there was white and black children playing together, was there ever any time when you would have racial conflicts? Would there be name calling or did you generally just kind of play together and have fun, and the idea of race hardly ever entered your mind?

MRS. BYERS: Just generally fun, especially when we were in our yards. When I got older and got in school we had trouble but it was usually families that moved in and lived in the trailer court, but the children I grew up with, we didn't have any trouble out there.

MR. NETHER: Did you go to a rural school?


MR. NETHER: What was the name of it?

MRS. BYERS: Fairview.

MR. NETHER: How many black children went to Fairview?

MRS. BYERS: Seven.

MR. NETHER: Is this an elementary school now?

MRS. BYERS: You mean then?



MR. NETHER: What were the teachers like? How many did they have?


MR. NETHER: One teacher in the whole school?

MRS. BYERS: When I first started and then when I was about in the fifth or sixth grade, we had two.

MR. NETHER: Did they have a principal or—

MRS. BYERS: The teacher was everything.

MR. NETHER: Superintendent and all?

MRS. BYERS: Right.

MR. NETHER: Did you ever learn when you were in Fairview anything about black Americans or black people in general?

MRS. BYERS: Not too much. We would spend maybe a day on the Civil War, and that was it, and it was very quick and brief.

MR. NETHER: What about Africa? Did you ever learn about Africa?


MR. NETHER: What were some of the conceptions that you had about Africa?

MRS. BYERS: Oh, I knew that there were wild animals over there and when I was little, I guess, was the idea that everybody lived in huts and stuff like that and out in the open, and then my mother would set down and explain and we would ask questions and she would tell us different or read to us.

MR. NETHER: Do you think if you had went to your teacher and told her you wanted to learn more about black people or a variety of people, didn't necessarily have to be black, do you think she would have took the time to teach you?

MRS. BYERS: No, because she didn't know.

MR. NETHER: She wasn't equipped to teach you then?

MRS. BYERS: That's right.

MR. NETHER: All right. From Fairview now what school did you go to?

MRS. BYERS: I went to West Junior High.

MR. NETHER: What was West Junior High like?

MRS. BYERS: Oh, it was nice. It was a brand new junior high and most of the kids I had gone to school with went with me too and it was pretty well liberated. I was on the student council and stuff like that, so they were pretty fair. They had blacks on the basketball team and clubs, stuff like that.

MR. NETHER: Let's jump for one minute here back to Fairview. Where did you sit in your classroom? Were you supposed to sit any certain place? Did she put girls in one place and boys in another or could you sit anywhere you wanted to?

MRS. BYERS: Mrs. Deay was my first teacher and when we first started out, she would set the little ones in the front and you would sit according to your grade and you just picked out a desk and sat there. If you gave trouble, she would assign a seat, but otherwise on the first school day, she would say first grade sit up here. You would pick a seat and that's where you were supposed to sit for the rest of the time.

MR. NETHER: Were there any incidents at all that came about because of race?

MRS. BYERS: Yes. There was a little boy from the trailer court and every day when we got off of the school bus he would call my brother a nigger so my brother would cry. Finally after a period of time my father would explain to him that he couldn't let this keep going and he tried to talk to the little boy, didn't do any good, so he told my brother if talking and being nice didn't help, he would have to bust him in the mouth, and that's what he did. Then his father got mad because my brother had hit his son. My father told the little boy's father he would have to smack him in the mouth because he hit his little boy. Then when I was in the eighth grade we had a girl in the eighth grade that was determined to have the swing. And I didn't want her to have it and she pushed me off and she called me a bunch of names, and we had a fight and the teachers had to call the parents.

MR. NETHER: Were these racial slurs the girls were calling you?


MR. NETHER: Anything different than that, such as lunch? Could you sit together and eat?

MRS. BYERS: Yes, we would go outdoors and sit wherever we wanted to. I guess I was in the sixth or seventh grade and we had a teacher by the name of Mrs. Brune and you could tell that she was prejudiced. She would like my brother to race, and he was real fast, and she would put him with the little first-grade girl and the little girl said she didn't want to run with him because she said she couldn't keep up with him. But she would do these things. Then when the little girl fell she would take it out on my brother. My mother put a stop to that. Mrs. Brune told him he was stupid and black children didn't have the right to push white children down. My mother had to put a stop to that.

MR. NETHER: Did you enjoy going to school in the country?

MRS. BYERS: Oh, yeah, it was fun.

MR. NETHER: Back to West now. You say many blacks could participate in practically anything they wanted to at West Junior High.

MRS. BYERS: If they tried out.

MR. NETHER: Did they have any black teachers at the junior high school?


MR. NETHER: Did they teach black studies?


MR. NETHER: Did they teach you about Africa at all?

MRS. BYERS: A little, not much.

MR. NETHER: The little they did teach you about Africa, did they ever do away with the misconceptions you had of it being a backward country and everybody was an—


MR. NETHER: Lived with a lot of animals?


MR. NETHER: Who were the people that kind of took care of the school, the janitors and so on? Were there any certain race of people, or were they just kind of mixed?

MRS. BYERS: It was mostly black.

MR. NETHER: So you had white teachers but black domestics and janitors and maintenance men?


MR. NETHER: Karen, did you ever become confronted with any forms of racism while you were at West Junior High? Can you give us some examples of stories where maybe you were called a name or where you couldn't receive a textbook because you were black, anything at all of that type of nature?

MRS. BYERS: Once in home economics my home ec. teacher gave us— we were set in groups and she set all of the black girls and one little Indian girl at one table and we were supposed to prepare a meal, any meal we wanted to. So we all decided we would get together and have a soul food meal, and Mrs. Van Bebber threw a fit. She just didn't appreciate that at all. She didn't know, as she put it, what kind of food niggers ate, so we had to set her straight about that, go down and talk to the principal, vice principal, and he came up and told her that her language wasn't necessary and that she could learn what kind of food we were talking about. In the long run, she finally settled down and let us do what we wanted to do. We wanted to go out and get wild greens and bring them in and cook them and stuff like that, and tell them why we prepared it and what else went with it. After we had finished the meal, everybody was supposed to come along and eat and they did, and she told us she was sorry she said it and she enjoyed the meal.

MR. NETHER: Do you think incidents like this could have been done away with, maybe, if you had one or two or at least 50 percent black teachers in the school that would have helped her understand exactly what soul food was? Now this is a personal opinion. I won't ask you many of these.

MRS. BYERS: In my opinion, even if we had had somebody black to explain to her, no, because she was one of the kind of people that didn't want to listen and didn't really want to learn. Only reason she was forced was because the principal was watching, that's all.

MR. NETHER: Do you think your junior high or grade school years would have been different if you had had black teachers? Do you think that would have made a difference?

MRS. BYERS: I think so.

MR. NETHER: Personal opinion again. You can't prove it.

MRS. BYERS: That's true.

MR. NETHER: How did you feel when you became a ninth grader, Karen, and you all of a sudden were confronted with the idea of having to go to Lawrence High School?

MRS. BYERS: I wasn't worried about it.

MR. NETHER: You weren't afraid? You weren't nervous?


MR. NETHER: Was your brother at Lawrence High yet or is your brother younger than you?

MRS. BYERS: My brother is a year younger than I am.

MR. NETHER: Did he ever mention how did he felt? Here he was a man, young man. He was going to be able to partake in athletics if he liked. How did he feel?

MRS. BYERS: He wasn't worried about it. He got along with everybody and most of the guys that were on the football team he had gone to school with, so he wasn't upset about it at all and things like that didn't bother him.

MR. NETHER: Had he planned on going out for the football team or basketball team?

MRS. BYERS: Yes, he did go out for the football team and he was the manager for the basketball team.

MR. NETHER: All right. When you did finally get to Lawrence High, what was it like? How did it compare with West Junior High?

MRS. BYERS: I felt a little bit more out of things. There was a lot more children and they weren't quite as liberal. Wasn't until my senior year that they even let blacks sign up for the homecoming queen contest, stuff like that. They didn't have any black cheerleaders. I was on the student council but mainly because the kids that were in my room were mostly from my neighborhood and they just voted for me. I have a feeling that maybe if I had been in another class with mostly city children, I wouldn't have gotten voted into the student council.

MR. NETHER: And this is how it kind of differed with West Junior High?


MR. NETHER: Were you involved in anything besides student council?

MRS. BYERS: Oh, I was in nursing club. That's about it. Because I didn't have a chance to do a lot of things after school. These clubs met during free period, and after school I would always have to go home, because I had chores to do and stuff like that. But I do know in nursing club that the adviser informed us that as far as she was concerned that she didn't know of any school regulation that would let blacks participate as officers in the clubs and we never had a black officer in the club, like the secretary, treasurer, anything like that.

MR. NETHER: Back up a minute now to West Junior High again. What activities did black people get involved in in West Junior High? Was it just student council? Were they involved in other things also?

MRS. BYERS: No. Just student council and sports. That's about all they had because most of the kids that went there were rural students and most of us had to go home after school.

MR. NETHER: When you went to Lawrence High, what type of organizations or activities did blacks participate in?

MRS. BYERS: Oh, again, sports. They had basketball, volleyball, stuff like that, and they had intramurals after school, and there were one or two blacks maybe on the volleyball team, but they were blacks that were right on top of the school, just about, they were within walking distance.

MR. NETHER: separation in the high school?

MRS. BYERS: I imagine you could eat wherever you wanted to, but like most people, you sat with your friends, so there was a table of blacks and table of whites. Every now and then you would see a table mixed, but it was mostly boys as they were coming from gym class or something like that.

MR. NETHER: But you didn't have any signs up which said you must eat here or there?


MR. NETHER: Were there any other things that happened in the school, any other kind of regulations, which kind of separated blacks and whites?

MRS. BYERS: No, not that I know of.

MR. NETHER: Football, all blacks and whites played on the same team. Basketball, blacks and whites played on the same team?

MRS. BYERS: Right.

MR. NETHER: When you were a sophomore, could you remember the names of some of the blacks that participated in football?

MRS. BYERS: Let's see. Trying to remember. All the guys that played were older than I was. Bobby Kimball was on the team or whether he had just graduated. Bobby Kimball and a Vann.

MR. NETHER: Otis Vann?

MRS. BYERS: No, Dwayne. Frankie Dowdell played for a while. That's about it that I can remember.

MR. NETHER: Are these just in your sophomore year or throughout?

MRS. BYERS: These were just my sophomore year. Most of these guys graduating.

MR. NETHER: Eleventh grade when you were a junior and twelfth grade as a senior, who were some of the blacks that participated in football?

MRS. BYERS: My eleventh grade I don't remember any blacks being on the football team unless it was Everett Estell. He might have played. I don't remember. But, if so, he was on the B team, he wasn't on the A team in the starting position. And at that time my brother had started school. He was on the Little Lions. He's the only one I can remember on the Little Lions football team. They didn't pick a whole lot, just a few.

MR. NETHER: What about basketball now?

MRS. BYERS: No. There weren't any on the basketball team at all.

MR. NETHER: Throughout your whole three years while you were there?

MRS. BYERS: No, during my sophomore year Frankie played, but eleventh and twelfth grade I don't remember any.

MR. NETHER: Did they have girls' basketball?


MR. NETHER: Were any black girls playing?

MRS. BYERS: Jeanie Whiteside played and I think Anita Hill played and maybe Cheryl Thompson. That's about it.

MR. NETHER: What about in track? Who were some of the more advanced or some of the faster track men that were black?

MRS. BYERS: Oh, Rosie Vann was about the only one that we had on the track team.

MR. NETHER: Is that a girl?



MRS. BYERS: As far as boys, we had a Vann that was on the track team for the boys, but I can't remember his first name.

MR. NETHER: Is that all?

MRS. BYERS: That's all.

MR. NETHER: Were blacks encouraged to go out for sports? What I want to find out, Karen, is why more blacks didn't go out and try to participate?

MRS. BYERS: I think they had been discouraged in years before and a lot of them I found out later felt like they weren't wanted and just didn't try out. Then some of them didn't have a chance because they had jobs after school.

MR. NETHER: Approximately how many black people went to Lawrence High School when you were there?

MRS. BYERS: I would say maybe there was a hundred in all three classes, all three grades, when I first started out.

MR. NETHER: About three hundred?


MR. NETHER: And what did the blacks in the school do for fun? Did they participate in the homecoming, the spring dance? Did they go to all the normal school functions; did they have their own little social gathering?

MRS. BYERS: We went to a few of the dances, went to homecoming dance. They let us know, the children let us know we really weren't welcome but we went anyway. I think it was for the Christmas formal they had had some trouble with name callings and stuff like that, so one of the girls gave a party and everybody went to that instead of going to the school function, but you would go and you would try to talk to people and they would wander off and mingle over with their own group and if you walked over, they would move again, so you felt like you weren't welcome at the social affairs, so they just quit going.

MR. NETHER: What about the teachers? Were there any teachers in particular that seemed sympathetic to the needs of some of the blacks at Lawrence High?

MRS. BYERS: Mr. Denny was an English teacher, Mr. Binns, he was a government teacher, Mr. Stewart was the vice principal. He acted like he was concerned, but he was afraid to get really involved in the whole thing. He would talk to you like we are talking now, but if you were out in a group, then he would act like he didn't know what you were talking about, if you would ask him a question or something.

MR. NETHER: Karen, what were your grades like in school, if you don't mind my asking?

MRS. BYERS: I made As and Bs.

MR. NETHER: I figured that was a safe question.

MRS. BYERS: I better; mother would kill me.

MR. NETHER: How did the fact that you were getting good grades, did anybody now try to encourage you other than in the home, did anyone try to encourage you to advance yourself, maybe try to look into a professional career instead of maybe doing domestic work like many of the blacks are doing in this time?

MRS. BYERS: Mr. Stalcup, my student adviser, and Mr. Denny. They both recommended I go to college, so I did.

MR. NETHER: Did they recommend any particular college?

MRS. BYERS: They suggested KU because it was right here, it was close and at the time I could go without too much of a financial problem because I was a Kansas resident.

MR. NETHER: This question you may not know for sure. What about some of the other blacks, what about some of the ones that were having grade problems? Was there any way that the teachers were compassionate enough to give these students extra help, extra attention in trying to teach them? Was there ever a time when they just considered that the blacks were dumb and couldn't learn?

MRS. BYERS: We had a few teachers like that, yeah. My cousin didn't want to go to college, and her grades weren't the best. I remember her going in one time and asking her teacher for help and she told her she didn't have time to help her. She considered her time more important for students that were making good grades and were going somewhere, and she told my cousin that as far as she was concerned that most blacks were supposed to be in the kitchens and cleaning and stuff like that. I remember Sharon really being upset about it, but I don't think she ever went home and told her parents. She just complained to me, which didn't do too much good.

MR. NETHER: Could you give a blanket theory and use the blanket theory in saying that all the teachers at Lawrence High School were generally uncompassionate to the needs of the black students, or would you have to say half and half or would you have to say not at all?

MRS. BYERS: I would have to say maybe a fourth were compassionate and the other three fourths weren't.

MR. NETHER: That large of a spread?


MR. NETHER: Seventy-five percent didn't care is what you are saying?

MRS. BYERS: Right. Just didn't care.

MR. NETHER: When did blacks start to become recognized in the school? When did they start to become a little more compassionate? Did they do it during the time you were in school?

MRS. BYERS: They were beginning to try in my senior year, in 1964.

MR. NETHER: What kind of news events that were racial took place while you were in high school?

MRS. BYERS: They had some riots in other cities like Chicago, and they were having disturbances in Kansas City and Topeka, which affected us. We were watched. You could tell you were being watched. You went down the hall, if you were in a group talking, a teacher would run up and ask you what was going on or would you please move on down the hall. They didn't want you talking, because they didn't know what was going on.

MR. NETHER: What about when Martin Luther King was leading civil rights marches and after the march in Washington, blacks started to advance? Here you have three fourths of the teachers that generally have a negative idea about blacks. Do you think these news events made them afraid of what blacks may do?

MRS. BYERS: To an extent, yes, because they would ask us, you would walk in a classroom they would ask you what are they going to do today or this week? What's going on? All I could tell them is I don't know any more than you do. I know when the news breaks. They figured since you were black and you were talking to another black that you guys were passing information on, or all blacks were supposed to know what was going to happen and we didn't.

MR. NETHER: Did they have much interracial dating when you were in high school?

MRS. BYERS: No. What was going on was behind people's backs, because not only would the girl be in trouble but the dude. If they found out about it, the whole school knew about it and they were scorned on. Especially white people. They didn't want to associate with them any more. There was a couple that I can remember and whenever we had a function, the girl would come to our function, she wasn't welcome to participate in their clubs and be seen out socially with their friends any more, so she always came to the Negro functions.

MR. NETHER: You finally decided after three years of high school, good grades, that you were going to go to KU. Now, were you afraid in any way? What were some of your fears when you were leaving Lawrence High School for the last time and enroll in KU?

MRS. BYERS: Yeah, I was afraid all right. I didn't know what to expect, what kind of people I was going to run into for sure. I knew it was a lot larger than Lawrence High and my mother and my uncle and my aunt had told me some of the things that happened to them racially when they were up there, how they had been treated, so I wasn't sure how I was going to fare up there.

MR. NETHER: Karen, you were born in kind of a unique age. You are thirty years old. Therefore, you have lived through some of the worst aspects of bigotry and you are available now to see some of the outgrowth of what has happened, some of the advances the black people have made. Karen, do you think that there is as much fear or as much understanding about your color today as it was say when you were a little girl going to school?


MR. NETHER: Were you conscious all the time? Were you always aware of well, I might can't do this, I might can't do that, because I am black, more so than you are now?


MR. NETHER: So you were always confronted with the idea that you were black everywhere you went?

MRS. BYERS: Right.

MR. NETHER: Were you confronted with this same idea when you were going to KU when you thought of how would you be accepted, what would the classes be like? Were you ever thinking how would you be treated as a black person too?


MR. NETHER: How many professors or administrators did they have at KU that were black when you first enrolled?

MRS. BYERS: The only one I can remember was associate professor and that was Mr. Shepard, Charles Shepard. He's the only one I remember seeing.

MR. NETHER: Were there many black students at KU?

MRS. BYERS: Yes, quite a few.

MR. NETHER: How were they generally treated now? Were they allowed to go to the Union, sit anywhere they want, buy anything they want? Were they treated as well as the white students?

MRS. BYERS: We were allowed to go in and sit wherever we wanted and stuff, but usually I guess everybody sticks to their own kind. We would have our own dances and stuff like that and we didn't feel really welcome to go to their dances. I don't know whether it's because we didn't go or because we knew that from past experiences that they had been mistreated, and nobody just took the chance to go.

MR. NETHER: Who did most of the cleaning up around campus?

MRS. BYERS: They had mostly blacks at the time. There were a few whites but they were considered very poor and they were treated just like the black janitors.

MR. NETHER: Were there any black campus policemen when you were there?

MRS. BYERS: If I remember right, Bud Monroe had just come on the force or was thinking about coming on the force. He helped sometimes with basketball games and football games, but he was the only one that I knew of.

MR. NETHER: What black athletes did you go to school with?

MRS. BYERS: Wesley, Jo Jo White, Greg Douglas, George Harvey, I can see his face but I can't think of his name. Those were the ones that were the biggest.

MR. NETHER: Did many people treat Jo Jo White and some of the others that you mentioned, did they treat them well even though they were black?

MRS. BYERS: Oh, yes.

MR. NETHER: Was it even kind of a hero's worship?

MRS. BYERS: Right. They didn't even have to go to class. The teacher would say," Well, I see George isn't in class today so would you tell him what we talked about and if there's going to be a test and call me and I will let him make it up." As long as you were an athlete, something like that, you were all right, but if you weren't an athlete, you had better be there.

MR. NETHER: What were the fraternities and sororities like? Did they seem to have a purpose, Karen, when you were there?

MRS. BYERS: The Alpha's did. They were more interested in making sure that you were going to go somewhere in life, keep your grades up, stuff like that. I think that's because they had a housemother. The Kappas lost their housemother, so the guys were staying there. It was a place to stay and that was about it. The Deltas were the same way. They were worried about the future of the black woman, where she was going.

MR. NETHER: What effect did national news have on the blacks at KU? Did they all have a sudden start to get more assertive and try to help themselves more so than before the civil rights movement was taking place?

MRS. BYERS: Yes, I think so. I can't remember. It was something to do about having more blacks up in the dean of women's office. They wanted a black woman up there and one for the dean of men. I remember there was about fifty students that went up and sat down by the chancellor's office and wanted to talk to him and he wouldn't talk to them. They wouldn't move, so eventually they all got arrested and brought down here to the county jail and booked.

MR. NETHER: Did incidents like this take place often?

MRS. BYERS: No, not too often.

MR. NETHER: What was the town like for the KU people? Did they come into town much to do things or just kind of stick to their own social groups on campus?

MRS. BYERS: No, they came down to shop and stuff like that, would come to church. That was about it. Maybe go to the show, but otherwise they would have things up on the campus they could do.

MR. NETHER: Did you meet many people from maybe the East or Far West, somebody that's quite a distance away from Lawrence?

MRS. BYERS: No, not really. I guess the farthest away I could say I could remember would be like St. Louis, Jo Jo and Bob Wilson, some of those.

MR. NETHER: Do you know how they compared KU and Lawrence, Kansas, with where they were from?

MRS. BYERS: They thought Lawrence was rather dull, that they had more places to go and things to do in their cities than we did. We were restricted. About all you could do was go to the show. We had one night club, but really if you didn't want to be down there because at the time they had a very bad reputation, so we would have hayrack rides and barn dances out to my farm, stuff like that. That's about it.

MR. NETHER: Is this night club you are talking about the Gables?

MRS. BYERS: Yes, Green Gables.

MR. NETHER: All right. So they thought Lawrence, Kansas, didn't have any social life?

MRS. BYERS: Right.

MR. NETHER: What about some of the white kids? Did they feel Lawrence had social life?

MRS. BYERS: Yes. They could go swimming. They had clubs they could go to. They always had something to do, tennis courts, stuff like that. We weren't allowed to do anything like that unless you went to the park and hoped nobody was down there playing, but we didn't have a swimming pool to go to.

MR. NETHER: No swimming pool. What about lunch counters? Could you eat in any diner or restaurant you wanted?


MR. NETHER: Could you go to the movies and sit anywhere you wanted?

A. When I came along, yes, they didn't like for you to, but yes, we could sit anywhere we wanted to.

MR. NETHER: Were blacks getting radical at this stage? Did you meet many blacks that were actually now becoming against whites?

MRS. BYERS: Yes. Quite a few were beginning to get into that. I had a couple of girlfriends, Janice Salisbury and Bonnie Brown, who were really into it. In fact, they went down south when those three civil rights workers got killed, and they were shot at down there. They were really militant when they came back. They were ready to get anybody.

MR. NETHER: Chaney. Two whites and a black.


MR. NETHER: All right. Were any blacks radical when you were in high school now? I always get a school ahead and come back.

MRS. BYERS: Leonard Harrison had just gotten here and he was teaching courses up at KU, and he also was involved with Ballard Center and he was very radical. He was very bitter. He was always trying to stir up trouble. In fact, he wanted some ground when I was in high school to build on for blacks, and he came out and just told my father he was going to take his ground over. Seven carloads of blacks showed up one night and told my father they were going to burn and shoot if my father didn't sign this ground over to them, and he said they would have to burn and shoot because he wasn't going to turn it over. He had worked all his life for that. If it had been for a cause that he could understand and accept, he would gladly do it.

MR. NETHER: Could you tell us where Leonard Harrison was from?

MRS. BYERS: I am not sure where Leonard Harrison was from. Every time you heard about him he had been to one city and had been forced to leave. I don't know where he came from. I had the impression he was from New York, some place like that, the way he put on airs, but I am not sure.

MR. NETHER: This is actually one of the first militant blacks that you met?

MRS. BYERS: Right.

MR. NETHER: Was he one that advocated violence?

MRS. BYERS: Yes. Violence was the only way to get what you wanted as far as he was concerned. If you didn't get it, to him then you should take it.

MR. NETHER: Did many of the KU blacks attend church here in the county?

MRS. BYERS: No, not very many.

MR. NETHER: Okay. Did the church play any role in the civil rights movement here in Douglas County?

MRS. BYERS: Yeah. They tried to get the kids to come and talk and have different ministers and speakers in, trying to explain to them that violence wasn't the best way. My mother got involved with fair housing and stuff like that. There were some of them from the different churches that were trying to get the kids to say that you could get things but you would have to be prepared to get them—get an education and there was a right way and wrong way to go about things to get them.

MR. NETHER: Karen, had you graduated by the time they formed the Afro House?


MR. NETHER: Can you tell us what the Afro House was, as much as you know? Did it have a purpose?

MRS. BYERS: I really don't know, because the only time I would really hear about it is like they had the riots and I know some of the kids ran there when the shooting and stuff started. You would ride by and see them sitting on the porch and stuff, but you didn't hear too much about it as far as what they were doing. I just got the impression it was something where the blacks could go and that was it.

MR. NETHER: Karen, I want you to compare the changes that took place at KU while you were there with the changes in KU at the time of the Afro House and the time of the major racial conflicts that they were having here in Douglas County, those two time periods. What were they like? How could they compare? Were the blacks any different?

MRS. BYERS: I think when I was up there they were just beginning to get involved racially. They started wanting things and demand a few things and then after I left, it got worse. They just out and out were militant, would demand things, have marches and protests.

MR. NETHER: Did they want more than whites had or they want to be equal?

MRS. BYERS: They wanted equal things. They wanted more black teachers and people in the administrative offices, stuff like that, you know, more black courses. They wanted black history courses.

MR. NETHER: Karen, what church do you attend?

MRS. BYERS: I go to St. Luke AME Church.

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

MRS. BYERS: Ever since I was born, I guess.

MR. NETHER: What changes have you seen take place in the church?

MRS. BYERS: We have a white family that comes to church now and more liberal. Anybody is welcome to come to our church. They are letting the youth do more. When I was little, we had a youth group and then it looked like the youth quit coming to church. It was a period where young blacks didn't feel the church was necessary, and they quit coming and now the black youth are filtering back to the church, wanting to be a part of it again.

MR. NETHER: Do you feel that there are more KU blacks taking part in church now than say when you were in school?


MR. NETHER: They are less?

MRS. BYERS: They are less, at least at our church. Not at our church, than at Ninth Street but at our church, no.


MRS. BYERS: I should tell you, when I was in school I can't remember what year it was, Leonard Harrison led a group of blacks to the church, and if I remember right, it was First United Methodist Church and demanded that they give each black person in Lawrence a hundred dollars because of slavery times, that they owed us that, so instead of giving every black family a hundred dollars or every black person, this church picked one church in Lawrence, which was St. Luke AME, and gave them a hundred dollars for a year, a month.

MR. NETHER: Every month?

MRS. BYERS: Every month, a hundred dollars. This was their way of saying we are sorry for slavery or whatever. I don't know, some of us felt like it was a gift and others felt like it was a way of paying us to stay down where we were because we had been talking about buying land and building a church somewhere else.

MR. NETHER: Do many blacks go to white churches?


MR. NETHER: So this is something now that's just different?

MRS. BYERS: Right. You are welcome to go.

MR. NETHER: Do you remember Bishop Gregg?

MRS. BYERS: No, I don't.

MR. NETHER: Can you remember some things you might have heard about him in the church?

MRS. BYERS: No, not really. Not too much. I have heard his name and that's about it.

MR. NETHER: Karen, now I want you to think for a minute and evaluate your years at KU. Were they beneficial to you? Was it ever a time here in Douglas County where blacks could go to KU, graduate, and not be able to find a job? Did you have people at KU that would work with blacks to get them a job? Did they tend to discriminate with the people they tried to push to certain jobs? Did you have a chance to be a doctor if you wanted to?

MRS. BYERS: Oh, I could take the courses, true, but they would let you know that it was hard for blacks to do this. I wanted to be a social worker and my adviser told me if I wanted to be a social worker I would probably have to move to somewhere like Los Angeles because they didn't have many social workers in this area, and they made a habit of not hiring them because they felt we would be more inclined to be favorable to our own people and not do the job right. They would tell you you could have these jobs, but you had to be well qualified and they would let you know that it would take years and years and years, and you would have to have your master's degree and your PhD to really get the job like you wanted and stuff like that. At the time I really wasn't worried about it, because my aunt was a social worker in Louisiana, and she was sending me all this information. I knew he was telling me one thing and she was telling me the fields were opening up and to go ahead and keep trying.

MR. NETHER: I asked you a lot of questions and you answered it right. Perfect. I am glad you were able to answer after all those. Were there any other organizations up on campus or maybe even at Lawrence High School that were black-oriented besides the fraternities and sororities?

MRS. BYERS: Not that I can think of.

MR. NETHER: You didn't have SNCC or CORE?

MRS. BYERS: CORE was just beginning to get started good. We were hearing about it in Lawrence, when I started KU. People didn't really know what it was about, at least people in this area didn't.

MR. NETHER: How did you feel about Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael when you heard some of the things they were doing? Personal question.

MRS. BYERS: I really wasn't impressed because I had been brought up that violence isn't the way to get things, and some of the things that they say they had been discriminated against. I hadn't been, so it kind of worried me that they took the violent method. I guess if I had been in their situation maybe lived the kind of lives they had, grown up that way, it would have been different, but it wasn't quite that bad for me, so I wasn't impressed with their ways at all.

MR. NETHER: Can I ask you another hard personal question?


MR. NETHER: Do you think that blacks much like yourself were not discriminated against as much here as in other parts of the country?

MRS. BYERS: Yes, I think that's the case. I was always told you couldn't go to a white beauty shop because they wouldn't do your hair, so for the challenge I went. I don't know if they didn't know whether I was Indian or not. They didn't ask me if I was black or Indian. The Haskell students could go. I found out the blacks didn't try. If your hair had to be pressed, they didn't press hair in the white beauty shops. Mine didn't. So they went ahead and did it. They said you couldn't apply for jobs here and there. You didn't know if you didn't try. Did you try? No, I didn't go down there, I just heard. So I got so I would go down and try. I found out places like Woolworth's, an opening for a clerk, I went down, took the test, made a hundred on it. The white girl took the test, she got 65. They offered me the job as a cook and she got the clerk job, so I could see in some cases where yeah, they were right. They knew they weren't going to get the job in the first place, so they just didn't go.

MR. NETHER: Back to what your adviser was talking about where you said you could take any course you want, any type of classes you wanted for any type of profession, but generally there were only certain professions that were open to blacks where they could actually get jobs.


MR. NETHER: What type of jobs were open to blacks when you were in school, guaranteed kind of jobs, say if I go to school I can get a degree in this?

MRS. BYERS: Nursing was the main one and home economics, that kind of thing, where they knew you were going to be working in the kitchen, dietary type of things. Not too many in social work and, of course, few business courses. You could take that and maybe they knew around this area they weren't going to get a job as a secretary or something but they knew in Kansas City or something where they had black business they could go back and get a job like that. That's about it.

MR. NETHER: Karen, is there anything now at all that you would like to mention? Maybe I didn't ask you something about any of your school days starting, going back again to Fairview, to West Junior High, to Lawrence High, to Kansas University. Anything about those days that you would like to mention? Maybe you didn't think black people were really justified in making a lot of noise, becoming more radical, making more demands.

MRS. BYERS: Oh no, I think they had a point, but I think some went about it the wrong way to make their points, the housing here, it was hard to get a decent house. You would see a house for sale and you would go and apply and they would tell you we are not selling because you are black, so it went like that. I could see where they were justified but instead of threatening to burn all of Lawrence down, there was a right way and wrong way to go about it. My mother got on the committee, they wrote letters, went and talked to people. Pretty soon housing started opening up, slowly but surely, but a lot of it too was whether you had the money or not. Lot of blacks felt like because they were black, go and demand this house, didn't have the money to pay for it. Just didn't work that way. I could see the businessman's point of view of it too. He was in it for money, if you had the money, you could get the house.

MR. NETHER: Karen, would you want your children to live here and go to school here, maybe attend KU much like you did, would you mind?

MRS. BYERS: No, not really. My kids are pretty outspoken and I think they wouldn't have too much trouble. They both know what they would hope to have out of life. Right now they have an idea. They have high hopes of the kind of jobs they want, and I think they would go ahead and fight for what they want and KU is a good school. I would like to see them go to KU, yeah.

MR. NETHER: Karen I don't have any other questions.


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