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For specific kinds of Kansas literature, see:
Race, Immigrant and Ethnic Literatures of Kansas
Some immigrant and ethnic literature has already been discussed, particularly under the category of farm novels. Sod and Stubble, by John Ise, is decidedly German, as were so many Kansas settlers in the 1870s. Russian-Germans were part of that influx, as previously mentioned. The Mennonite presence in Kansas is also important, making the state the highest per capita in conscientious objectors. Some new young adult literature is being produced by Maynard Knepp & Carol Duerksen, as in their Runaway Buggy (1995).
The Territorial literature regarding race/slavery/abolition sets the stage for Kansas attitudes in works set in later periods. John Brown strides through the literature of Kansas Territory (1854-1861), as main and minor character, as catalyst, as villain, as hero and as myth. Early Kansas novels are listed above, but John Brown is such an important American figure that he continues to be a subject for fiction by Kansans and by those attracted to that period in American history. Sons of Strength (1899), by W.R. Lighton (1866-1923), treats Lawrence, John Brown and the Wakarusa War. Free Soil (1920), by Margaret Lynn (c. 1890-1958), is set in the Lawrence where she was a professor of English at the University of Kansas. The epigraph of the novel is typical: “To the ever-loved memory of those men and women who ventured greatly and endured nobly that the new state they were establishing might also be a free state.” Leonard Nathan (b. 1915), who wrote A Wind Like a Bugle (1954) at the centennial of the Kansas Territory, has more distance from Brown, questioning through his characters the methods and madness of the prophetic advocate of bloodshed in the fight against slavery. Pillar of Cloud (1957), by Jackson Burgess (b. c. 1920), is set in the fictional town of Whitaker, Kansas Territory, in 1858. Historical novelist Marguerite Allis (1887-1958) writes an account of settlement in which a Southern Belle learns to become a Kansas woman in Free Soil (1958). Kansas writer Janice Young Brooks (b. 1943), adds to these territorial accounts the novel Seventrees (1981), set at Grinter's Ferry, a crossing on the Kaw (Kansas) River in Bonner Springs, at the Shawnee Methodist Mission (located in the Kansas City, Missouri, suburb of Fairway), and at Chouteau's Four Houses, a tiny trading settlement in Kansas City, Kansas.
In the 20th Century, Kansas has a rich tradition of African-American Literature. The work of Frank Marshall Davis (1905-1987), who chronicled his growing up in Arkansas City in Livin’ the Blues (1992), has seen a renaissance thanks to John Edgar Tidwell (b. 1945), who is currently on the faculty of the University of Kansas and a native of the state as well. Tidwell is also the editor of Davis’ Black Moods: Collected Poems (2002). In Not Without Laughter (1930), Langston Hughes (1902-1967) writes about Stanton (Lawrence), Kansas, around the time of the First World War. Young Sandy Rodgers, who is African-American, comes of age in a time of racial prejudice. He has many influences and philosophies clamoring for attention in his life, and finally he sets out to live up to his grandmother's dream that he will someday become a great man and help the whole black race. Gordon Parks (1912-2006) wrote The Learning Tree (1963), his "novel from life," at a time of racial unrest. This coming of age story takes place in Cherokee Flats (Fort Scott) between 1924 and 1928. Parks has said he was lucky to survive Kansas, and the violence and racial prejudice in the novel show why he might make that assertion. On the other hand, Kansas is where Newt Winger learns the important lessons of courage, bravery and truth-telling. In Kansas he finds the tools to propel him to a better life after the death of his mother.
Because of Kansas history, writers not of African-American descent have always seen race as part of their own integration as human beings.