History Faculty Publications and Presentations

“HOLD THE LINE”: The Defense of Jim Crow in Lawrence, Kansas, 1945–1961

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2010


It is time that racial discrimination was ended,” opined an editorial writer for the University Daily Kansan in 1952. “It is time we ended it here at the University of Kansas.” Not everyone, of course, shared this view. Edwin F. Abels, the conservative editor of the Lawrence Outlook, was among the most vocal and intransigent critics of the civil rights movement, believing that “our ‘Do-Gooders’ . . . are suffering from ‘a rampage of sentimentality.’” A former state legislator prominent in local, state, and national affairs, Abels was a perennial critic of efforts to foist social change upon a resistant population. “They want to correct all the wrongs of the world . . . by a simple method, such as passing a law,” he complained in 1948. Prejudice, he believed, could only be eroded gradually, “like the weathering of a block of granite where the change made through a century is almost imperceptible.” He was also skeptical about the gravity of racism locally, reminding his audience in 1960 that black professionals had in the recent past called Lawrence home. Their current absence, he suggested, revealed more about black sloth than white prejudice. “Progress depends on the individual and his qualifications,” he maintained. “There is [now] no Negro lawyer in Lawrence and no amount of social legislation will bring one. There is no law, prejudice or anything else preventing a Negro from becoming a lawyer.” In a later meditation he added that Lawrence did not have a black doctor either. Yet, he noted, “Both the law school and . . . the school of medicine are, and have been, open to all who care to enter.”1

Publication Title

Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains