KCKCC to Show William Allen White Documentary

Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2018

Free speech, factual news coverage and the importance of putting principle ahead of party politics – these were all issues that were important to Pulitzer Prize winning editor William Allen White and all issues that still resonate today. A Republican, White had a strong commitment to racial tolerance, fighting to push organizations like the Ku Klux Klan out of Kansas. These ideas and more will be presented in a new documentary, “William Allen White: What’s the Matter with Kansas.”

The Wyandotte County Historical Society and Kansas City Kansas Community College are sponsoring a showing of the film at 5 p.m. Sept. 12 in the KCKCC Performing Arts Center, 7250 State Ave. Admission is free. 

Kevin Willmott, a professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas, directed the 90-minute film. He will conduct a workshop immediately preceding the film at 4 p.m. for aspiring independent filmmakers.

Willmott has received recognition for his previous films including awards from the Sundance and Cannes film festivals. He also directed the film “Jayhawkers,” the story of basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, who played basketball at KU during the 1950s. Chamberlain, who was black, was a scoring ace despite often being the target of racial hatred. 

White’s 1896 editorial “What’s the Matter with Kansas” took aim at the populist movement that had taken root in Kansas and across the nation. This populist movement has been compared to the “Tea Party” movement of today. Several newspapers across the country reprinted the editorial. 

A subsequent editorial authored by White in 1922, “To an Anxious Friend” won a Pulitzer Prize. White wrote, “You tell me that law is above freedom of utterance. And I reply that you can have no wise laws nor free enforcement of wise laws unless there is expression of the wisdom of the people.” White was referring to his concern about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. 

White’s most famous editorial was about his daughter Mary White, who died in horse-riding accident in 1921.

The documentary is owned by the William Allen White Foundation. It was funded, in part, by the Kansas Newspaper Foundation and was produced by Scott Richardson. A 20-minute version of the film will be sent free of charge to Kansas high school journalism classes.

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