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Location: 3436 N. 27th St; 2700 Sewell Avenue (southwest corner of 27th & Sewell)
(Note: The long-held address of the property, 2700 Sewell Avenue, is an inappropriate address under the city's current system of assigning street addresses. 2700 would properly have been the address of Stanley Hall on the north side of Sewell, while Vernon School should probably have been addressed off of North 27th Street, as that is the direction the main entrance faces. Vernon Multi-Purpose Center now uses the more appropriate address of 3436 North 27th Street. Quindaro and Western University Historic District, KCKs Urban Planning and Land Use, 06 Jan 2005)
Building Built/Opened: 1936
Building Closed: 1971/72 school year
Vernon School was originally known as the Colored School of Quindaro., and was a stone building, replaced by a four-4oom brick structure after the turn of the century. It was later named Vernon School after Bishop William T. Vernon, of Western University and Registrar of the U.S. Treasury. This school had its own school district, No. 17, with an all African-American school board. The current building was constructed in 1936 by the WPA and still operated as a segregated school. After annexation of the Washington District by the KCKs Public Schools (USD 500) in 1967, the school was discontinued and the pupils transferred to the Quindaro Elementary School (two blocks south), which is, itself, descended from the all-white Quindaro School. The Vernon School building later housed the Vernon Community Center, and was placed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places 21 August 2004.
1858: April 12: "The Common Council's Committee on Finance issued a report on the Quindaro school fund after one year. The school for white children had been built at a cost of $2,000, with a teacher employed at $700, while in apparent response to Mayor Gray's proposal, a school for black children had been established at a cost of $500, with a teacher at $300. The disparities may have been as much a reflection of the actual numbers of children served as the racial prejudices of Quindaro's citizens, but it should be remembered that at the time, such prejudices were common even among those who believed that slavery was morally indefensible." (Quindaro and Western University Historic District, KCKs Urban Planning and Land Use, 06 Jan 2005)
(Officers, Wyandott Gazette, 17 July 1873 - Edward Banks, David Dale and Levi Seals)
May 13: Quindaro voters approve Negro suffrage in municipal elections, but at the same time vote to continue separate school systems. (Quindaro and Western University Historic District, KCKs Urban Planning and Land Use, 06 Jan 2005)
One person who did not support racial segregation in the schools was Mrs. Clarina Nichols. Her daughter Bertie Carpenter operated a private school in Quindaro which served both white and black children, but a May 2, 1859 letter from Mrs. Nichols to her friend Susan Wattles indicated that this was not a widely popular position to take:
"My daughter has recommenced her school with 13 white and col'd and 3 or 4 more promised. She has an offer of a School in Lawrence at $100. No question she could have 30 to 40 scholars here at $499 per qtr. if she would exclude col'd children, but we have concluded, tho' it looks like starving for our principles, that we will wait till we have starved before we abandon them." (Quindaro and Western University Historic District, KCKs Urban Planning and Land Use, 06 Jan 2005)
1872 - January 6 - the Colored Normal School of Quindaro was established by the Kansas State Legislature. This school was to function as part of Freedman's University (Western University).
1950: Addition of two rooms. "Schools in KCKs in Years of Change, 1964-86," by O. L. Plucker, Superintendent Emeritus, June, 1987
In January of 1967, Vernon Elementary School was part of USD 201 attached to the Kansas City, Kansas Schools. Due to population changes in the neighborhood and the unavailability for expansion, Vernon closed at the end of the 1971/72 school year. According to a Kansan article of October 15, 1967, the building was in extremely poor condition and would be cut off by the I-635 trafficway. It did help to ease the overcrowding of Quindaro Elementary during the 1967 school year.
1971/72: The building was closed and the pupils combined with Quindaro Elementary.
In August of 1974, USD 500 deeded the property at 2804 Sewell Avenue to Western University Holding Corporation, Inc. by a special warranty deed which included a reversionary clause to USD 500 if the Western University property later ceased to be utilized for health or social services for the elderly or for children.
In November of 1989, the Board of Education authorized a Quit Claim deed to Western University Holding Corporation, Inc. or its' successor for the property.
1966-67 - Clarence G. Reitemeier / 1967-69 - Alonzo Plough / 1969-72 - Clarence Glasse
From Mrs. Mollie Lewis, recorded in "The African American Community in Kansas City, Kansas," published by the Community Development Program, 1980
"My folks came to Quindaro in 1862. I was a child ten years old. I went to school to Reverend Blachly. The building where he held his school was under the hill pretty well down to the boat landing. It was on what is now 27th Street, pretty close to the old ruins now there. The Colored children from all around the country came to his school. He used to tell us what a wonderful school this would be for the Colored people. He was a teacher, a preacher and a doctor, and we all loved him." (This was to become Western University)
From A History of Black Education in Kansas City, Kansas, Readin', 'Riting, 'Rithmetic by William W. Boone, March 1986 (Copy located in the KCKs Public Library, 625 Minnesota Ave, KCKs, 913-551-3280). The school district is sincerely grateful to Mr. William W. Boone, Ms. Josephine C. Vandiver, and Mr. Jackson C. Van Trece for their research and preparation of this material.
"Most schools were located in the northeast, central and southern part of Kansas City, Kansas. There were two school system that played a very important part in the education of Black children. Vernon Elementary School and Western University, located in the Quindaro Township, served Black students who lived in or near that area. It was thought at one time that this area would be the "hub" of Eastern Kansas. With the founding and settling of Kansas City, Missouri, the city of Wyandot began to flourish instead of the Quindaro Township area. The rapid growth of Wyandot, Kansas literally crushed the Quindaro Township. Although the Quindaro area was decreasing in population, there were these two schools where Black students could attend, Vernon School and Western University. When Black students finished the eighth grade in Vernon School, they were sent to Northeast Junior High School. For grades ten, eleven and twelve, these students attended Sumner High School. The fact that Northeast Junior High School was located in the northeast part of the city made it very difficult for the students from Vernon to attend. To overcome this problem, students from Vernon School were bussed to Northeast Junior High School.
Vernon School was named in honor of William T. Vernon, the first president of Freedman's School (later named Western University). Northeast Junior High School and Sumner High School will be discussed in a later chapter.
During the Civil War, Freedman's School was closed as the entire male population of the school entered the Union Army and the building and grounds were left in charge of Eben Blatchley, a Presbyterian minister. [Annotation: Kansas had more men enlist in the Union Army, per male population, than any other state. Richmond's Kansas] The deserted school was decaying rapidly and in 1877 it was offered to the Baptist church as an education institution for Kansas Black people. The Baptist church failed to accept it, and Mr. Corrvine Patterson, a Baptist Deacon turned it (the old school) over to the A. M. E. Church in 1880.
The Freedman's School was an old brewery on the west bank of the Missouri River in the Quindaro area. This school was set up to teach freed men (former slaves) to read, write, and to learn a trade. Freedman School was so named because it was for "free Black men". In 1891, a new building was constructed. This building was called Ward Hall, honoring the Bishop T. M. Ward of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. This church was largely responsible for seeing to it that Blacks in the Quindaro area receive some type of education. In 1899, an Industrial Building was constructed. This building along with Ward Hall became a part of Freedman's School. It was shortly after the construction of the second building (1899) that the Freedman's School lost its name to become Western University. W. T. Vernon became the first president of Western University. Changes were made in the curriculum with the addition of music, carpentry and tailoring.
When Theodore Roosevelt was elected president of the United States in 1901, he appointed W. T. Vernon as the Registrar of the Treasury of the United States. When Vernon returned to resume his duties as president of Western University, the popularity of his appointment seemed to follow Vernon, and the name of Western University became nationally known.
After the Civil War, Western University reopened with special goals and objectives to teach Black youth to become honest, thrifty, socially and morally strong. To assist the Black people with the school, the State of Kansas, in 1898, under the administration of Governor W. E. Stanley, appropriated the first money to create and maintain an Industrial Department at Western University. Under a contract with the State of Kansas, the Western University was supported for a period of forty years. The contract was a deed #34946, dated July 24, 1899, at which time Western University was turned over to the State of Kansas for the price of $1.00. If and when the State of Kansas discontinued its support, the deed and property of Western University would be returned to its rightful owners, the A.M.E. Church. The deed was returned in 1939.
Racial problems occurred in the Kansas City Kansas High School when a fight occurred between a Black youth and a White youth. The White youth was killed in that infamous fight. Many parents of Black youths pulled their children out of the old Kansas City Kansas High School and sent their children to Western University. After Sumner High School was built, Black parents allowed their children to return to high school. It was the turn of these events (bussing students to Northeast Junior High School, and the fight between two students) that practically made Western University and Vernon School a part of the Kansas City, Kansas school system."
This represents an excerpt from the manuscript/book as it was presented, including terminology used at the time of the writing. All attempts have been made to reproduce the spelling, capitalization and layout of the original manuscript/book as much as possible.
Disclaimer: The written historical perspectives online at this web site, and web sites to which links are provided, reflect the view of the author(s)/(creator(s) which are protected under the rights of free speech; and do "not" necessarily reflect the views of the Kansas City, Kansas Board of Education.
Copyright Notice: In keeping with the policy of providing free information on the Internet, this data may be used by non-commercial entities for research/information. These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format for profit or other gain. Printing for personal research use is encouraged, as long as this "copyright notice" is kept with the copy. Other use, including publication, storage in a retrieval system, or transmission by electronic, mechanical, or other means requires the written approval of the author(s) of this works.
None of the original structures of the Western University Campus exist today. The only parts that remain of the original buildings are some of cornerstones of the buildings. Along with the John Brown Statue these cornerstones are the only monuments left to give praise to a great and noteworthy African-American University.
History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012