NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Those who missed Levi Goossen’s presentation on the Bethel College bell at Fall Festival last October will get a second chance.
Goossen, a Newton attorney, will give the next Friends of the MLA program Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Administration Building chapel. The event is free and open to the public.
The Mennonite Library and Archives (MLA) at Bethel sponsors these periodic presentations on topics related to Mennonite history and thought.
Goossen will talk about “the history of the bell and its connection to northwest Kansas and the landmark Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case, as well as to the Mennonite church and Bethel College.”
The story of the Bethel bell began in 1900 in Thomas County in western Kansas, in the Prairie Bell country school.
The children of the only black family in Thomas County attended the Prairie Bell School, and one of them later presented pivotal testimony in the case of Oliver Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka.
“Her testimony was critical in showing that integration works, as it had in Oakley,” Goossen said. “When Prairie Bell School closed, the family had moved to Oakley, where the school was integrated and they were welcome.”
Brown v. Board of Education went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which, in May 1954, ruled racial segregation in the public schools illegal.
After the Prairie Bell School closed, Goossen’s father, Frank Goossen, bought the bell at auction and gave it to the Mennonite church in Mingo. When that church built a new sanctuary, there was no place for the bell.
“It was auctioned again,” Goossen said, “and again my father was the successful bidder. Then a few years later, he gave it to Bethel College. So the bell was twice bought at auction by my father and twice given away.
“I trace the history of the bell from 1900 through the time in the late 1960s when it rang [on campus] once for each of 38,000 American lives lost in the Vietnam War. Then it was taken to Washington, D.C., and was rung on the Mall during anti-war demonstrations there.”
For directions or more information on the Friends of the MLA or the Feb. 25 program, call 316-284-5360.