KU Libraries announce 2024 Whayne Scholars; visiting researchers’ presentations set for June 26

LAWRENCE — Alyssa Cole, assistant professor of African American studies at the University of Florida, and Brooke Thomas, African American history postdoctoral scholar at Pennsylvania State University, have been selected as the recipients of the 2024 Alyce Hunley Whayne Visiting Researchers Travel Award from KU Libraries. 

Cole, who completed her doctorate in history at KU in 2022, will return to campus to research Black women activists’ role in increasing medical equity in Kansas City during the early 20th century. Thomas is researching a book on the role of Black collegiate sororities in political advocacy and leadership development.

The Whayne Scholars Program supports visiting scholars and researchers from across the country requiring the use of Spencer Research Library’s African American Experience materials in the Kansas Collection, University Archives or Special Collections, funding travel expenses for researchers to stay in Lawrence as they explore books, images, personal papers and government documents held at the library. Cole and Thomas will visit KU and the Spencer Library from June 24 to 27 with a joint public presentation at 3 p.m. June 26 in the Johnson Room. The presentation is free and open to the public.

“The Whayne Award has expanded opportunities for researchers in a variety of fields,” said Deborah Dandridge, field archivist and curator of African American Experience Collections at Spencer Library. “Both of the projects this year are focusing on what women in leadership have done and the impact they’ve had on their communities, reflecting some of the principles Alyce Hunley Whayne embodied and valued, as well as an interest in telling those stories.”

Cole’s research focuses on Black women activists’ influence on medical equity during the early 20th century. Her project, titled “Movement Before the Movement: Black Women’s Health Activism in Kansas City,” argues that Black Kansas Citians helped establish the professionalization of Black medicine in the United States, while coverage of their efforts via Black newspapers spread information about Black health care facilities in Kansas City to a national audience, sparking the forthcoming Black hospital movement. In addition to her doctorate, Cole also earned a master’s degree in African & African American studies at KU.

Thomas’ project is a book titled “To Capture a Vision Fair: Black Sorority Women and the Shift From Respectability Politics to Public Policy, 1935-1975,” which explores the evolution of Black collegiate sororities and their roles in shaping political and social change. Thomas is particularly interested in exploring Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority chapters at KU and in Kansas City via papers and records held in several collections at Spencer Library.

Made possible by support from Sandra Gautt, KU professor emerita, in honor of her mother, Alyce Hunley Whayne, the Whayne Scholars Program has hosted researchers from the community, award-winning authors and distinguished university faculty from across the country.

“The intent of the award is multilayered, making the collection more visible to the academic world to influence and enrich scholarship, as well as making the collection more accessible,” Gautt said. “When you understand the value and uniqueness of the collection, you know what it means to be able to highlight it in the venues where it can have the greatest impact. It’s been really rewarding to see how successful it has been.”

More information about KU Libraries’ travel awards can be found on the Kenneth Spencer Research Library website. 

Thu, 06/06/2024


Wendy Conover

Media Contacts

Wendy Conover

KU Libraries