- Type of Place
- Independent City or Town
- Metro Area
- Politics c. 1860?
- Don’t Know
- Unions, Organized Labor?
- Don’t Know
Sundown Town Status
- Sundown Town in the Past?
- Was there an ordinance?
- Yes, Strong Oral Tradition
- Don’t Know
- Year of Greatest Interest
- Still Sundown?
Method of Exclusion
- Police or Other Official Action
Main Ethnic Group(s)
Testimony of a former resident:
“I DO know that Douglass, Kansas, still was [sundown] in 1969. My sister and I ran afoul of it when we were out for an evening walk. A carload of young black men had gotten off the highway and gotten lost; they needed directions to get out of town and on their way to Wichita. We politely gave directions, and by the time we made it home law enforcement was already there to ask us about these men. My dad, pastor at the Christian Church, actually broke the law when he invited a choir from a Wichita Baptist Church to come and sing at an evening Holy Week service–and didn’t tell anyone they were black! There was a real threat of violence that evening….
We lived in Douglass from 1967 to 1970…I can’t remember the date of the choir incident. It seems like it was about 1969, but I could be off a year or so. Douglass was only a half hour away from Wichita, so the choir did leave after the service. I gather the threat of violence was very real. I was in Junior High at the time, so it is possible I was romanticizing the event. But given the earlier incident which brought to police to our house, I’m pretty sure that the possibility of violence did exist.
Testimony of the former pastor:
“I was pastor to the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Douglass, KS. At that time I had gone back to Seminary to complete some graduate studies. This story all began about 1969 when the leadership of the congregation of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Douglass, KS came up with a plan for a weekend meeting with one of the faculty of Phillips University of Enid. OK as the guest speaker. It was planned as a meeting for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings, and including Sunday morning.
The arrangements were complete to have a faculty member of the undergraduate School of the Bible from Phillips University to be the speaker. Plans were made for special music from the congregation.
I knew that the Black Congregation in Wichita, KS North Heights Christian Church had a program going where they would do a concert of “black music” as guests of a congregation on the basis that a special offering would be received that would go to the “organ fund” of the North Heights church. I went to the persons who were planning for the event and suggested that we might invite the choir to sing for us on Sunday evening, which was the closing service for these meetings.
The male member of the congregation who was arranging for the music called the pastor with an inquiry and asked if the choir from North Heights church would be free and willing to come to Douglass, KS to do a concert and we would be more than glad to receive the special offering for their funds. The date had been shared. It was intended as an inquiry to gather information. This phone call had been made a few months in advance of the special meetings.
He let me know early on that the pastor had responded that they would be glad to come to Douglass for the meeting. Later he visited with one of the other men of the church, a man who had been a member of the Douglass community for most of his life. The man responded with something like, “You cannot have the choir at the church for this service that is being planned. For many years Douglass has had an ordinance stating that, ‘No black person (probably nigger) can remain in the city limits after the sun goes down.’ This would be real trouble!”
But it is important to bring to mind that the man who made the original call did not call the pastor from Wichita back and express a change in plans. Neither did he confirm the arrangements. Time went by. Spring arrived. The meetings began on Friday night. We had pretty good attendance. The Sunday morning service went well also.
In reflecting back on the events from that point on we now know that members of the church, and the choir, arrived in Douglass by buss and in cars in the latter part of the afternoon, some time before the meeting was to begin. The sun was still up.
They then decided to drive around town to look the city over. They drove through the streets, both business and residential areas. They drove slowly, looking at the homes.
I heard later that the phones in town had begun to ring. It must have been like a really busy phone company. Some people passed on the message that a group of black people had arrived in town to look for places to live. At that time there were no black persons living in the city at all. Douglass was only about 20 to 25 miles out of Wichita and was a bedroom community for persons who worked in Wichita.
I went to the church early as I always did when special meetings were being held. One always needs to be sure that everything is ready. Before long there were lots of people arriving early. They were coming in large numbers early. It happened that they were black. It seems that the pastor had put that engagement on his calendar and since no one had called to have him erase that date they assumed that it was a go.
Some of them very large black persons. They came in, used the rest rooms, and wandered all over the church building exploring each corner bubbling with excitement. They rehearsed a little. They greeted persons who were coming in from the community.
They did the concert. They enhanced the evening meeting. And we had plans for refreshments after the meeting, with dialogue with the guest speaker. The visitors from Wichita stayed for the after session. It was bad enough for some that they had been there for the regular service. But there were a few persons who were really angry that they did not leave after the service, and GO HOME! During the dialogue there were a few young men who expressed concern about the difficulties that rise for racial minorities.
I escaped the heavy axe of anger because I had not made the original phone call. I had not been a part of the arrangements. I had made the suggestion to the persons making arrangements. But they had failed to use proper procedure to complete the arrangements.”