January 29, 1861
Kansas Entered the Union as a Free State
There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home! Dorothy from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is not the only person to express these feelings about Kansas. So would some 2.6 million Kansans living there today and many more throughout the state’s history. Sometimes called the “Sunflower State,” “Wheat State,” “Jayhawker State,” and “Midway, USA,” Kansas entered the Union as the 34th state, a free state, on January 29, 1861. Why is it “free”?
Kansas entered the union as a “free state,” because of the Kansas-Nebraska Act that allowed the residents to decide themselves if their state would allow slavery. Settlers came from the North and the South with strong opinions about slavery, giving rise to “Bleeding Kansas.” Acts of violence erupted due to the conflict before the majority made the territory free from slavery in 1859.
The U.S. bought the land that makes up present-day Kansas from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Native American tribes had long called the land home; the state is named after the Indians that the Sioux called the Konza, meaning “people of the south wind.” Some Native Americans lived in Kansas against their will in the territory’s early days, when tribes were relocated there by the federal government.
Those who know Kansas as home are used to its wide plains. As a matter of fact, the whole state is a fairly continuous plain. Laura Ingalls wrote about life there in Little House on the Prairie.
Who else has called the plains of Kansas home besides pioneers and cowboys? George Washington Carver, Wilt Chamberlain, Langston Hughes, William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Amelia Earhart, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, to name a few. Dorothy has good company in the free state of Kansas!