It’s not a celebration, but, in some ways, it is.
The 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence certainly is nothing to celebrate, but the resilience of the town that rose from those ashes and the people who persevered through that tragedy is worthy of our admiration and pride. The raid was a pivotal event in the history of Lawrence and the nation. It played a big role in the community we are today — and that is worth honoring.
A few events on the 1863 Commemorate Lawrence schedule already are past, but the commemoration gets into full swing this weekend. After three years of planning, the Watkins Museum of History will unveil a new permanent exhibit that fills the second floor of the historic bank building and places a special focus on Lawrence’s free-state roots and struggles. Watkins plans to celebrate the exhibit’s public opening on Saturday with walking tours, lectures and a concert of music popular during the Civil War.
Lawrence’s Parks and Recreation Department is planning a cemetery tour of Civil War veterans’ graves on Saturday, and special events are scheduled Sunday afternoon in Lecompton and at Kansas University’s Spencer Museum of Art. The weekend will conclude with a concert and citywide commemoration at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in South Park. Additional events organized by Watkins Museum, the Lawrence Public Library, the Black Jack historical site and other groups will continue through the end of the month.
Participating in some of these events is a great way to learn more about the history of Lawrence and how the ideals on which it was founded and the early challenges it faced helped shape the community it is today. It’s also a wonderful way to pay tribute to those who died on Aug. 21, 1863, as well as those who survived and had the courage to rebuild Lawrence and their lives here.
Lawrence has a special place in history and knowing more about that history helps us understand why it’s still a special place today.