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Kansas 1972 Podcast

Humanities Kansas turns back the clock to 1972 with a new podcast series to commemorate HK's 50th anniversary in 2022. The podcast, a first for HK, connects national events from 1972 to local events in Kansas, including the founding of the Kansas Committee for the Humanities, now known as Humanities Kansas.

The 1972 podcast documents Kansas's connection to national events, including the Equal Rights Amendment and the presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm. It also goes local. You'll learn about the lettuce boycott in Topeka in support of the Farm Labor Movement; why western Kansas farmers protested space race funding; and the link between Smokey Bear, the conservation movement, and a Kansas artist. Through it all, we'll consider how and why Humanities Kansas got its start and its enduring importance.

Support for the Kansas 1972 podcast has been provided by the Friends of Humanities Kansas.

The Kansas 1972 podcast was recogized with an Alice Smith Prize in Public History from the Midwestern History Association and a 2023 AASLH Leadership in History award



Episode 1: From a Seed Ideas Grow

Welcome to Kansas 1972! This episode looks at the story behind the State Humanities Councils, the founding of Humanities Kansas (then the Kansas Committee for the Humanities) in 1972, and the cultural climate of Kansas in the early 1970s. Listen to Episode 1.

group of men and woman in the 1970s

Kansas Committee for the Humanities Field Humanists, 1975 (l to r): J. Randall Zercher, Hesston College; Joe Hawes, Kansas State University; Eugene Schneider, Washburn University; Richard Keller, Emporia Kansas State College; L. George Griffin, University of Kansas; and Mary Jo Gurley, Garden City Community College.

Episode 2: Get Up, Stand Up!

In the early 1970s, Kansans advocated for change on campuses, in high schools, and in the grocery aisles through sit-in, protests, and boycotts. You’ll hear about the February Sisters at the University of Kansas and their 1972 sit-in in support of women’s equality. You’ll learn why many Kansans boycotted grapes in ’68 and lettuce in ‘72. And you’ll take a trip back to 1970 to learn about a high school walkout in Topeka and how it informed the Chicano movement of 1972 and beyond. Listen to Episode 2


International Women's Day March at the University of Kansas, February 1971. Just one year later, the February Sisters staged a peaceful protest to obtain resources to meet "the pressing needs of women." Image source: KU-University Archives.

Bonus Episode: Ramp It Up!

Why was the construction of Wescoe Hall at the University of Kansas halted in 1972? In this bonus episode of the “Kansas 1972” podcast, learn how Roger Williams used the courts to make the building and the rest of Kansas accessible to wheelchair users.  Listen to the Bonus Episode.

Wescoe Hall Building University of Kansas

Wescoe Hall, University of Kansas. Construction on the building was halted in 1972 to add wheelchair ramps. Image source: KU-University Archives.

Episode 3: Women on the Move

Kansas was the seventh state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment on March 28, 1972. Hear how the ERA was ratified in Kansas and the challenges it faced after ratification. Listen to Episode 3

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Episode 4: Think Globally, Act Locally

1972 saw a new environmental consciousness spreading across the nation and in Kansas. Learn about opposition to a proposed nuclear waste disposal site in the salt mines of Kansas as well as the early efforts to establish a Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Listen to Episode 4. 

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Top News Stories of Kansas, 1972. The Wichita Eagle, December 31, 1972.

Bonus Episode: Only You

Did you know that Smokey Bear has a Kansas connection? Learn about the origins of this beloved character and the Kansas roots of his illustrator, Rudy Wendelin. Along the way, we’ll discuss New Deal public works programs, fears about Nazi spies during WWII, the environmental movement, and a mural in Rawlins County, Kansas. Listen to "Only You."

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Smokey Bear by Jamie Staite, via Shutterstock

Episode 5: To the Stars!

Outer space was on the minds of Kansans in 1972. Kansas astronaut Ron Evans journeyed to the moon on the Apollo 17 mission. Western Kansas was being considered for the new Space Shuttle launch site, and some locals did not like that idea. And the state was a hotbed of UFO sightings, including notable encounters in Dighton and Delphos. Listen to Episode 5. 

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Earth as seen from Apollo 17 Mission, 1972. Image: Library of Congress

Episode 6: Decision 1972

Explore the election year 1972 in Kansas. Republican President Nixon won re-election by a landslide, including carrying every single county in Kansas. Hear about the connection between the Catholic Volga German community, a noted Democratic political strategist from Ellis County, and the 1972 governor's race. 1972 also saw the re-election of the controversial, and popular, Kansas attorney general Vern Miller. What does the "folklore" surrounding Miller make us miss about his larger legacy? Listen to Episode 6

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Docking campaign mailer, 1972. Image courtesy of, Kansas Historical Society.

Episode 7: Returning to Roots Music

In the Fall of 1972, around 10,000 people descended on the Winfield, Kansas fairgrounds to enjoy a long weekend of camping, crafts, and bluegrass music. Fifty years later, the Walnut Valley Festival and National Flat-Picking Championships is still going strong. Learn about the origins of the festival, why the early 1970s was the right moment for the creation of this kind of event, the camp culture that has made the festival so unique, and the larger community created around Bluegrass. Listen to Episode 7.

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Walnut Valley Festival Musicians, 1970s.


Episode 8: Kansas Through the Camera's Eye

How did Kansas photographers in the early 1970s engage with Kansas and Kansans in their work? Terry Evans used her camera to capture the stories of Kansans, especially in rural spaces, who were experiencing the effects of social and economic change. And Gordon Parks used the camera’s perspective to work through his complicated relationship with his home state. Listen to Episode 8.

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Untitled (Four Teens) by Terry Evans, 1974.

Episode 9: Urban Renewal On The Plains

Urban renewal comes to Kansas and irrevocably alters historic communities. In a spotlight on Wichita, hear about the efforts of one woman to save the historic Calvary Baptist Church from demolition and how the building's legacy today. Also, learn how the construction of I-135 in Wichita in the 1970s disrupted an African American community on the North side. And explore the contemporary Horizontes mural project, which uses socially engaged art to help heal the damage done by urban renewal to communities of color in Wichita. Listen to Episode 9.

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​Doris Kerr Larkins led a movement to save the historic Calvary Baptist Church in Wichita. Image courtesy of The Kansas African American Museum. 

Bonus Episode: Rattlebone Hollow

Founded by Exodusters in the late 1800s, the story of Rattlebone Hollow has been mostly forgotten by Kansans. A thriving African-American community for the first part of the 20th century, Rattlebone Hollow was a neighborhood of Black professionals, businesses, and homeowners. But decline set in, and in 1972, the US federal government was building a landfill in this Kansas City, Kansas, neighborhood. Learn about the history of this important community and the five-decade fight against environmental discrimination from two individuals who are trying to keep the Rattlebone Hollow story alive. Listen to Rattlebone Hollow.

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John Garland Park is built on a former landfill in Rattlebone Hollow, Kansas City, Kansas. Image courtesy of

Episode 10: Voices of Vietnam Veterans

After more than two decades of involvement in the conflict in Vietnam, on October 26, 1972, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger declared, “peace is at hand.” A peace agreement was signed just a few months later, and US troops left Vietnam. This episode features stories from Kansans who served in the Vietnam War. What led these Kansans to serve? What did they experience during the war? How did they navigate the complicated reactions to their service when they returned home? How did their service affect their lives? And what can we learn from these Kansas veterans’ experiences today? Listen to Episode 10. 

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John Musgrave's story of serving in Vietnam is archived at the Library of Congress as part of the Veterans Oral History Project. 

Test Your 1972 Knowledge

Listen to this podcast teaser. Can you name all the people featured in the audio clips? Answers here (no peeking!)


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