The lessons taught by characters reincarnated in the Bloody Kansas Chautauqua this weekend in Lawrence are as relevant today as they were in the days surrounding the Civil War, a Chautauqua re-enactor says.
Charles Everett Pace is a Frederick Douglass scholar and instructor of anthropology and American studies at Centre College in Danville, Ky. He performs in the Chautauqua as the famed abolitionist.
Douglass was militant for his day -- he'd make Malcolm X look conservative today, Pace said -- but he had to be. He spoke for blacks on everything, including Prohibition.
"Douglass thought alcohol was used as a way to control the slaves," Pace said. "Alcohol was being used as a way to suppress black protest."
The actions that made Douglass suspicious rekindled themselves about 100 years later in the 1960s, Pace said.
During the Civil Rights movement, Pace said, drugs flooded the black community, raising the same question as alcohol in the 1860s.
"You could go to any city in the U.S., and within 10 minutes be in contact with a pusher," Pace said. "You can't tell me police didn't know where to find the pushers. Drugs were keeping blacks from protesting."
About 70 people showed up for "My Bondage and My Freedom," presented by Pace, who also performed as Douglass at the Chautauqua tent Friday night at South Park.
Lawrence bustled with a full schedule of animated history lessons Saturday, the second official day of Chautauqua proceedings around the city. The highlight was when Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas squared off in one of their fabled debates in the Chautauqua tent.
Scholars presented speeches and workshops throughout the day, fielding questions from audiences of close to 1,000 people.
The Chautauqua marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of Kansas' territorial birth with the Kansas-Nebraska Act in May 1854.
Audiences hungry for more background on the character portrayals this weekend chewed on ideas over breakfast at the Lawrence Visitor Center.
At least 60 people arrived for breakfast with Pace and Diane Eickhoff, a Clarina Nichols scholar.
In the afternoon, about 50 people gathered at the visitor center to learn more about the process of documenting a woman's life in the 1800s.
Filling in the gaps
Eickhoff, who will portray Nichols at the Chautauqua tent this evening, gave personal anecdotes about the challenges of filling in holes with primary-source documents such as church and school records, personal writings and census data.
Nichols was editor of a newspaper and an early women's rights activist, but she never kept a diary, Eickhoff said.
Fortunately, though, some of Nichols' direct descendants had been mindful enough to preserve some of her possessions, which are now displayed in a museum in California, she said.
A great-great-great-granddaughter, Janice Parker, of Houston, flew to Lawrence to meet Eickhoff and see her ancestor come to life tonight at the Chautauqua tent.
"It's kind of hard to read some of her stuff and interpret it, because it's written in a different kind of language than what we speak," Parker said. "Seeing the speech will be like watching the movie instead of reading the book."
The Chautauqua-related tours of historical sites were popular Saturday.
At Oak Hill Cemetery, at least 60 people gathered for a tour led by John Jewell, administrative assistant at Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass.
The tour included about 30 burial plots, among them fiery politician and Jayhawker Gen. James H. Lane, Kansas University's legendary basketball coach Forrest "Phog" Allen, Congressman and founder of Haskell Indian Nations University Dudley C. Haskell and several victims of Quantrill's Raid.
The tour attracted two longtime friends, Barbara Hurst, Overland Park, and Judy Naylor, Wichita.
"We like history very much," Naylor said. "They do history tours at Wichita cemeteries."
"We don't know much about Lawrence history and thought this was a good way to learn," Hurst said.
At least 20 people rode on a horse-drawn trolley as Paul Stuewe, Lawrence High School history teacher, talked about the history of some of Lawrence's neighborhoods near downtown.
Lawrence resident John Lounsbury said he enjoyed the 90-minute tour.
"It was very interesting," he said. "We looked at the neighborhoods, and he (Stuewe) described a lot about the lovely old homes and other points of interest."
History for the young
Adults weren't the only ones having fun.
Youths could learn just as much as their parents through the Youth Chautauqua camp at the Lawrence Public Library and at the Kid-Tauqua tent in South Park.
The tent had all kinds of fun: replica clothing for the children to try on, period games, such as Jacob's Ladder, to play and furs for them to pet.
"They felt like how they really feel," said a surprised Madalynn Kerr, 6, Ozawkie.
Evening entertainment included a strolling tour down Massachusetts Street by the Gum Springs Serenaders, a good-ol'-boy quartet that toted a tambourine, a period-style guitar and a fret-less banjo.
They didn't make it far and played at Free State Brewing Co., 636 Mass., for most of their "stroll."
But the hundreds who spilled out of the Chautauqua tent for the group's sit-down performance listened to an extra 15 minutes of the foot-tapping music. The microphones kept cutting out, but the act to follow was delayed because a volunteer had gone to get a new amplifier.
"The band might play a little longer," said a flustered volunteer during an announcement.
Nonetheless, crowds lingered through the technical difficulties. They wanted to see Lincoln, portrayed by Richard L. Johnson, debate with Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas, portrayed by Frederick A. Krebs.
Johnson and Krebs re-enacted one of the debates in period dress and meticulous attention to the original speeches.
Crowds have been pleased by the events so far.
"I think it's been really fun," said Jennifer Flippin, a Lawrence resident of nine years and self-proclaimed history buff. "I appreciate seeing how many people in the area are interested in the history of Lawrence."
-- Staff writers Mike Belt and Jennifer Byrd contributed to this story.