Kansas Technical Institute, founded in 1895, was one of two higher education schools in Kansas supported by state funds for Blacks. It was known as “the Tuskegee of the West.” For more than 50 years, KTI provided Black students in Kansas region with both a liberal arts high school education and a variety of vocational training programs.
The school was initially organized in the Tennessee Town neighborhood in Topeka in 1895 by two local Black school teachers, Mr. Edward Stephens and Ms. Izzie Reddick, as a kindergarten, sewing school and reading room. The school’s vocational program expanded rapidly, earning financial support from the state legislature by 1899. A year later, Booker T. Washington became president of the school’s Board of Trustees and appointed William R. Carter, a graduate of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, to serve as the principal of the school.
During the years, KTI’s vocational programs offered preparatory training in teaching, nursing, theology, agricultural studies, printing, tailoring, carpentry, music, home economics and auto mechanics. After WW II, non-Blacks began to join the student body. In 1955, KVS/KTI closed, a casualty of Brown v Board – the other side of the decision. At the time of its closing in 1955, its student population was fully integrated with whites and Mexican students, something the other state supported schools had not done yet. It still troubles the students their school and the warm family atmosphere it provided was so quickly closed and the others remained open.
The land and a few remaining buildings are now part of the correctional facility. The alumni established a legacy of duty, service and the pursuit of opportunities for betterment throughout their communities that has survived into the 21st century.
Ten years after the school’s closing alumni came together to hold the first reunion. They come together to “keep the memory of the school alive” and “fellowship with former classmates.” As the group gets older they are continually looking for ways to spread the word about the school and its legacy.
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By Deborah Dandridge and Donna Rae Pearson