The exhibit “K is for Kansas” is up at the museum. It is a traveling exhibit from the Kauffman Museum in North Newton Kansas. This exhibit explains history and facts about Kansas using the alphabet and interactive, hands-on learning. Each block contains a person, place, thing, animal, plant, or event from Kansas history and all tie into one another. So let’s take a look at how several of the blocks help tell the history of Kansas.
How did Kansas get its name? Well that answer can be found on the K block with the Kansa Indians. “Kansa” means “people of the south wind” and these people lived along the Kansas and Saline Rivers. While Kansa Indians now go by Kaw and are mainly in Oklahoma they still have a tie to Kansas as the statue on top of the Capitol Building in Topeka is of a Kansa Indian (named “Ad Astra”), shooting an arrow. The area that is now Kansas was purchased from the French in 1803 by President Thomas Jefferson for $15 million. This deal is known as the Louisiana Purchase, which is on the L block, and is regarded as one of the best real estate deals in history. Several trails crossed the Louisiana Purchase, which were well traveled paths for settlers as America expanded. The S block has a sort of puzzle map where one can see all the trails taken past and present. Since the trails brought people to settle Kansas let’s find out who some of the early settlers were. The V block mentions the Volga Germans. Volga Germans were Germans who immigrated to Russia to then migrate to the United States. Volga Germans arrived in Ellis County in 1876 to find freedom of religion, peace, and
opportunities to make their way in the world. Mennonites were also some of the early settlers in 1880s and brought with them Turkey Red Wheat, which was wildly successful and ushered in the Great Plains connection to agriculture. Settlers from around the world and the United States came to settle Kansas and make a home. Kansas entered the Union on February 29, 1861 right before the outbreak of the Civil War. The F block contains the bloody history of Kansas statehood. Kansas entered the Union as a free state, meaning no slavery, but Missouri had entered the Union as a slave state and tried to get Kansas so enter as a slave state. When Kansas entered as free state fighting erupted and Kansas became known as Bleeding Kansas. Missouri residents and Kansas residents took part in raids and in some instances killings of the each other and settlers. The term Jayhawk, which we associate with the University of Kansas, actually started as a term that meant a free stater (from Kansas), that would raid Missouri farms and freed slaves in the Civil War. After the Civil War the victory of the North, slavery became illegal and all over the country separate but equal became the law. This started to change when a court case from Kansas was taken to the Supreme Court. In Brown vs. Board of Education, African American school children challenged the fact that schools could not be integrated. In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that American schools would be integrated. The B block contains pictures of the defendants and a timeline of this monumental case.
Kansas truly has a fascinating history. From the Kansa Indians to Brown vs. Board of Education Kansas has seen everything from settlers to war. The exhibit “K is for Kansas” makes terrific connections with Kansas history and some facts that may not be known about the state. Come investigate for yourself and take a look at the exhibit “K is for Kansas” and learn something new about Kansas and rediscover the compeling history of the state.