Chester I. Lewis Park

Learn about Chester I Lewis, a Kansas native whose leadership helped change Wichita

Chester I. Lewis Park

Wichita, Kansas 67203, United States

Created By: Wichita History Walk

Tour Information

Chester I. Lewis
Reflection Park

This park is the first publicly funded art project in downtown Wichita depicting an African American.

In a letter to the editor of The Wichita Beacon on February 22, 1957, Chester I. Lewis, Jr. wrote:

"Here in Wichita Negroes are denied the right to find employment suitable for their abilities, to own homes in desired locations, and to enter many places of amusement and public accommodation. This is our land... We helped to build it. We have defended it from Boston Common to Iwo Jima. We have made it a better land through our songs, our laughter, our expansion and clarification of its Constitution and its Bill of Rights, through our talents and skills, all the way from Benjamin Banneker, who helped lay out the city of Washington, D.C., to Ralph Bunche, who made the work of peace a reality in 1949. We are Americans, and in the American way, with American weapons and with American determination to be free, we intend to slug it out, to fight right ohere on this home front if it takes forty or more years until victory is ours."

Chester I. Lewis, Jr. (1928-1990), a Hutchinson, Kansas native, became a Wichita-based attorney and leader in the modern Civil Rights Movement. He won hundreds of court cases that provided opportunities for African Americans to gain more access to housing, jobs, swimming pools, restaurants, and schools in Wichita.

By his early 20s, he had served in the U.S. Army, earned a law degree from the University of Kansas, and won his first Civil Rights case.

As President of the Wichita Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he supported the first successful youth-led sit-in in the United States. Mr. Lewis worked on a city-wide campaign to end racial discrimination in renting and purchasing homes. His formal complaint regarding the ongoing separation by race of children in the Wichita Public Schools led to the first federal investigation of school segregation in the Midwest. He represented Wichitans who lost family and homes in the 1965 Piatt Street plane crash.

Mr. Lewis led a national effort to expand the focus of the national NAACP beyond civic rights to include economic rights.

Mr. Lewis challenged Wichita's largest employers to hire, train, and promote people of color. In his final court case, he won millions of dollars for train porters who had been underpaid from the 1920s-1970s.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

Chester I. Lewis Reflection Park This park is the first publicly funded art project in downtown Wichita depicting an African American. In a letter to the editor of The Wichita Beacon on February 22, 1957, Chester I. Lewis, Jr. wrote: “Her... Read more
De Facto Segregation and Bussing Chester Lewis asks us, “Do you want to be free?” It is a long held belief in the African American community that education is a way out of the bondage of poverty and into the freedom to choose one’s ow... Read more
Desegregation of Swimming Pools Siamese crocodiles both want the taste of food. When I’m fed you’re fed. Today we share the pool. No “Whites Only” sign. But will hate change its mind? Leaping from the diving board is the closest thi... Read more
The Fair Housing March The Fair Housing March of 1963 was the largest public demonstration in Wichita up to that time. Wichitans of diverse cultures and religions joined together to protest housing discrimination based on race, national ori... Read more
Redlining Map of Wichita, 1937 The artwork recreates the red-lined map of Wichita in 1937 used to enforce discriminatory access to home ownership for all ethnic groups except white people who were born in Kansas. Green are “best” neigh... Read more
Wings of Ma’at and the Scales of Justice Some consider the modern legal system to have its origins in the Ancient Egyptian principles of Ma’at which are Order, Righteousness, Justice, Balance, Harmony, and Truth. As an attorney, Chester... Read more
Lewis Family Legacy My walls are covered with the symbol of the “sword of war.” Heroism. Valor. Courage. My people are who I am fighting for My side is the side of justice The other side tried to hush this Where do you stand? Lewis Lega... Read more
Dockum Sit-In for Restaurant Desegregation “If your hands are in the dish, people do not eat everything and leave you with nothing” To sit and take space while they hate is a tough thing. They broke the trend back then by sitting in so ... Read more
Economic Justice for African Americans excellence  craftsmanship,  attention to detail Chester Lewis was a train porter in his youth and became a lawyer who won millions of dollars for Pullman porters. Depicted in the fuselage above is Ma... Read more


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