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Kansas History - Forthcoming issue

Volume 40, number 3

Autumn 2017

Kristen Epps, “The Kidnapping of Charley Fisher: Questioning the Legal Boundaries of Slavery in Bleeding Kansas.”

In 1859, an African American barber named Charley Fisher was abducted from the Planter’s Hotel in Leavenworth, under the claim he was a fugitive slave and his owner had offered a reward. When he escaped his captors, he connected with local antislavery allies who used both legal means and physical violence to prevent his return to slavery. What ensued was a heated controversy over his legal status, slaveholders’ property rights, and the use of violence in resisting the Fugitive Slave Law. To Kansas abolitionists, this conflict was a reminder of the Slave Power’s grasp and an opportunity to challenge that power in court. Meanwhile Fisher’s alleged owners relied on the judicial system to recover their human property. By exploring Fisher’s remarkable story, Professor Kristen Epps, University of Central Arkansas, reveals how partisan tensions in Kansas over the slavery question continued into the late 1850s. This was a contest to determine the legal boundaries of slavery. It also illustrates the difficulties of implementing federal authority in a region torn by an internal civil war—the tenor of politics in Bleeding Kansas meant that the remanding of an alleged fugitive had implications for the status of slavery in both the territory and the nation.

 

Greg Olson, “Ioways in Blue: Ioway Soldiers in the Union Army.”

In 1864, there were seventy-eight men between the ages of twenty and forty-five listed on the rolls of the Ioway Nation. Of that number, fifty, or nearly two-thirds, had volunteered to serve in the Union army during the Civil War, and Ioway soldiers saw action in Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and the Indian Territory. Although the Ioways were certainly not the only Native Americans to serve in the military during the war, the circumstances of their enlistment and their experiences in the army were different from those of most other Native soldiers in the trans-Mississippi west. While most Indigenous men served in segregated units, all fifty Ioways served in integrated units. In “Ioways in Blue,” Greg Olson, curator of exhibits and special project at the Missouri State Archives, investigates why the Ioways had the opportunity to serve in regular companies with white men, explores the Ioways’ military experiences, and addresses some of the obvious questions raised by the Ioways’ willingness to enlist in the army.

Kelly Erby, “The Hull Baby Case and Women in 1870s Kansas.”

In 1877, Mrs. Carrie E. Hull of Independence, Kansas, was accused of buying a baby from the Home of the Friendless in Leavenworth so she could claim an inheritance her wealthy father-in-law had promised to his first male grandson. The trial that followed provides an unusual window into women’s lives in 1870s Kansas, particularly contemporary conceptions of motherhood and the economic and political opportunities available to them. In spite of the relatively liberal provisions the state constitution provided to give women a measure of citizenship, as Kelly Erby, associate professor of history, Washburn University, illustrates, the Hull Baby Case suggests women still faced an ultimate lack of power and options.

Ian H. Munro, “C.H.J. Taylor and Black Empowerment in Post-Reconstruction Kansas, 1877–1887.”

The end of Reconstruction posed African American leaders in Kansas with the challenge of developing new strategies of empowerment that did not rely primarily on the Republican Party. Repeated demands for nominations of blacks to elective posts ultimately resulted in the election of E.P. McCabe as state auditor in 1882. However, after McCabe’s removal from the Republican slate in 1886, blacks in Wyandotte County, under the leadership of C.H.J. Taylor, had to deploy new methods of coalition building with labor in conjunction with discrediting the dominant Republican narrative of black dependence. As Professor Ian Munro, William Jewell College, demonstrates, despite an oppressive and hostile racial environment, African Americans succeeded in gaining positions in the administration of the new city of Kansas City, Kansas, and influenced the Kansas state elections of 1886.

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