There she blogs!

All about my passion for discovering who I am and from where I've come!


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Professor Bruce

I’ve never been a fan of the University of Kansas and the Jayhawks.  However, in my family research I’ve found a connection to it that has softened my view.  Heck, I might even go out and buy a (gulp) KU shirt.  Let me explain…

The first black student to graduate from the University of Kansas was Blanche Ketene Bruce, my 1st cousin 3x removed.  He wasn’t the first black student enrolled there.  He was, however the first to graduate, coming out in 1885 with a degree in his hand.  That’s 129 years ago!

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After graduating from the University of Kansas, Professor Bruce (he later earned a Master’s degree in education) began working as principal at the Sumner School in Leavenworth, Kansas.  Sumner School was a segregated school for elementary grades.  He served there as principal for 54 years, until his retirement in 1939.  During his tenure, he spent at least 40 years as a tutor and mentor for young men wishing to become cadets at West Point and Annapolis.  Many officers from nearby Fort Leavenworth enlisted the aid of Professor Bruce to prepare their sons for the rigorous testing they would encounter on their entrance exams.  Nearly 1800 young men were tutored by Bruce, and of those 1800 only three failed their exams.

The contributions of Blanche Ketene Bruce to the education of African American children in the early 19th century and his connection (nephew) to the first African American to serve a full term in the United States Senate (Blanche Kelso Bruce) were key factors in placing Sumner School on the National Register of Historic Places.

(The information in this post and more can be found by visiting the Kansas Historical Society.)


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Why Black History Month?

I’ve often wondered why there is a black history “month”. It began as “Negro History Week” in 1926, the creation of Carter G. Woodson.  Woodson was a historian, an authority on black history.  He chose the second week of February for Negro History Week, because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Dougass had birthdays in that week.  It took decades for Woodson’s Negro History Week to gain popularity. It went from Negro History Week to what we now know as “Black History Month”.  It wasn’t until 50 years later, in 1976, that the United States government officially recognized it, and I suspect that was an effort to bring black Americans onboard with the Bicentennial celebration.

It’s a bit bothersome to me that a celebration of the accomplishments of black Americans was something that took so long to recognize.  After all, much of this country was built, quite literally, upon the backs of slaves.  Daddy always taught me that “you take what’s given to you and do the best you can to make it bigger and better”.  And so I will.  I will use the search for my ancestors as a tool to educate myself and others about my heritage.  I will share the accomplishments of my family, whether they be large ones or small ones, with anyone who will listen.  I am the great-granddaughter of slaves and the daughter of free people.  All of their stories are amazing, and I intend to tell as many as I can.