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Stunning Collection

Mulvane acquires Pulitzer Prize winner’s photos from "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America"

From The Ichabod - Winter 2020

The oldest art museum in Kansas celebrated its 95th birthday in late September with a special announcement of its acquisition of Brian Lanker’s photographs from his book “I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.”

Brian Lanker, a 1973 Pulitzer Prize winner when he was a photographer with the Topeka Capital-Journal, published the book in 1989. The exhibition and book presents an African American female view of the world, accompanied by the critically-acclaimed portraits and a forward written by Maya Angelou. The book “I Dream A World” is out of print, but Lanker's family maintained the original portraits that toured internationally. They have not been exhibited for 20 years.

“Acquiring this renowned collection of Lanker’s photographs will continue to drive the conversation on the historical importance of African American women in a city that was an epicenter of civil rights and the start of Lanker’s career,” said Connie Gibbons, director, Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University. “We are thrilled to have these exceptional photographs available for the patrons of the Mulvane Art Museum.”

The first exhibition of the photographs at the Mulvane will be the public opening on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, and it will remain on view until June 13, 2020. The exhibition will enhance conversations surrounding WUmester, a series of events and courses exploring the theme of citizenship and suffrage this spring semester.

Richard Ross, ba ’71, jd ’75, former president and now honorary board member of the Mulvane Art Museum, helped acquire the portraits with others in the Topeka area and donors who knew it was important for Washburn to have the collection. Today, 22 of the 75 women in the book are alive, and the Mulvane hopes some of them will visit the exhibit.

Maya Angelou's portrait in "I Dream a World"Rosa Park's portrait in "I Dream a World"

“The importance of the exhibit is in the biographies. These women are truly amazing, and it’s inspiring,” Ross said. “While some of the women in the book, like Oprah Winfrey, are well known, they are not all famous. Some had a common life, but Lanker thought everyone was significant in her own way. He interviewed and visited with all 75 women and didn’t have anyone hesitate to tell her story.”

Lanker, who passed away in 2011, started his career in photojournalism at the Topeka Capital-Journal, where he won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. He was twice named Newspaper Photographer of the Year, and his work for LIFE and Sports Illustrated received numerous international awards.

For information on this exhibit including group tours or events, please visit

WUmester Spring 2020

WUmester 2020 logo

WUmester is intended to foster a University-wide conversation on a diversity-related topic that will change each spring semester. The goal of the program is to engage the entire Washburn community in a collective learning experience on timely subjects and help students see the connections between the subjects they study in the classroom and real-world debates and problems.

WUmester logo

Full schedule of WUmester events


More of The Ichabod's coverage of WUmester:

Driving Discussions: Anniversaries of voting amendments will draw focus on citizenship, suffrage

Stunning Collection: Mulvane acquires photos from Pulitzer Prize winner’s book

Fighting Words: Washburn alumna active in national suffrage work prior to 1920 amendment

Party Lines: Bi-partisan efforts better equip students for citizenship roles

Celebrating Suffrage: Alumnus brings awareness, access to roles of citizenship


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Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483