The first African Americans in the Kansas and Missouri territories did not ask to be here. Their struggle to be here as free men instead of slaves began as the territories were settled. Their struggle was in the forefront of the Border Wars, and in the Civil War that followed.
African Americans served on both sides of the Civil War. Those who served the Confederate Armies were servants to white owners. Many of the Buffalo Soldiers who served in the Union Armies were escaped slaves and freemen from the border states. The First Kansas Colored regiment fought battles in Missouri before colored regiments in the northeast saw battlefields.
After the end of the Civil War, hundreds of African Americans came to settle in Kansas as part of the "Exoduster Movement" in the 1870s. Through the end of the century and into the middle of the next one, African Americans in both states continued the struggle for freedom from inequality and segregation, and Freedom's Frontier was still in the forefront of the battle.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which ended legal racial segregation in public schools in 1954, is one of the area's stories of hope and courage. The African American plaintiffs in the case never knew they would change history. They were teachers, secretaries, welders, ministers and students; they were ordinary people who simply wanted to be treated equally. This historic desegregation case struck down the "separate but equal" doctrine, and ushered in the broader Civil Rights movement.
Visit the following locations to learn more about the history of African Americans in Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area.