Archive for Sunday, August 20, 2017

Amid anti-Confederate wave, Lecompton sites walk a fine line

Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society, displays the portraits of John Calhoun, a pro-slavery partisan leader in the Kansas Territory, and James Lane, a strident abolitionist who became one of the state's first U.S. senators. The portraits are housed in a building that was used as the territorial capitol of Kansas, not far from Constitution Hall, where a proposed pro-slavery constitution was drafted in 1857 but later rejected by Congress.

Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society, displays the portraits of John Calhoun, a pro-slavery partisan leader in the Kansas Territory, and James Lane, a strident abolitionist who became one of the state's first U.S. senators. The portraits are housed in a building that was used as the territorial capitol of Kansas, not far from Constitution Hall, where a proposed pro-slavery constitution was drafted in 1857 but later rejected by Congress.

August 20, 2017

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— Paul Bahnmaier moves swiftly through the story of events that happened in the Kansas Territorial Capital back in 1857, speaking in a way that reveals how he has told the story many, many times before.

In September of that year, the territorial Legislature of Kansas met in Lecompton and drafted a pro-slavery constitution in hopes of getting Kansas admitted to the union as a slave state.

Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society and a tour guide of the building that served as the capitol building at the time, has a way of conveying just how significant of an event that was.

Constitution Hall in Lecompton is the site of an early state constitutional convention where delegates drafted a pro-slavery form of government for Kansas. It was narrowly rejected by Congress amid a political battle that eventually propelled Abraham Lincoln to the presidency and sparked the Civil War.

Constitution Hall in Lecompton is the site of an early state constitutional convention where delegates drafted a pro-slavery form of government for Kansas. It was narrowly rejected by Congress amid a political battle that eventually propelled Abraham Lincoln to the presidency and sparked the Civil War.

"So without the fight over the Lecompton Constitution in Washington, D.C., that was written on the second floor of Constitution Hall (another building a few blocks away), Abraham Lincoln would not have been elected in 1860," Bahnmaier says. "So that’s why we can very legitimately say, Lecompton is the first place in the Civil War where slavery began to die."

That interpretation of the site, telling the story of the pro-slavery movement in the Kansas Territory as the beginning of the end of slavery, has been successful in keeping Lecompton out of the spotlight at a time when there is a national movement to remove Confederate monuments from the public landscape, particularly in the South.

"We only tell the Lecompton history, and we tell it honestly, and that’s what we’re all about," Bahnmaier said during a recent interview.

The passions wrapped up in the anti-Confederate movement were on full display last week in Charlottesville, Va. — a progressive-leaning university town that is not unlike Lawrence — when violence and mayhem broke out during a rally of white supremacists who came to protest Charlottesville's decision to take down a public statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Jordan Green, senior editor of a newspaper in Greensboro, N.C., and a contributor to The Nation, says the monuments in the South have been controversial for decades, precisely because they do not tell a complete and honest story of the Confederate cause.

"I think it’s fair to say they have always been offensive to African-Americans in particular, and to white progressives who are grounded in an understanding of black freedom," Green said in a telephone interview. "They’re controversial."

"They don’t tell the story of black Southerners and they don’t tell the story also of white Southerners who did not own slaves and who resisted the Confederacy," Green continued. "The larger point is that they’re incomplete."

Green said many of the Confederate monuments in the South were erected shortly after World War I. That was around the time that the surviving veterans of the Civil War began dying off, but Green said there were other motivations.

"I’ve heard it explained as a way of asserting white supremacy over returning black veterans who might be more assertive of their rights," he said.

Although the monuments have been highly controversial for decades, white civic leaders in the South have largely managed to deflect the criticism, defending the monuments as statements about Southern heritage, pride and history.

That is, until recently.

Green said he believes the tipping point came in June 2015 when Dylann Roof, then a 21-year-old white supremacist, walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., and opened fire, killing nine people, including a senior pastor and a state senator.

"It was the Dylann Roof massacre in June 2015 that compelled cities like New Orleans and Baltimore to have a discussion and start moving in a direction of taking the monuments down," Green said.

Soon after that shooting, South Carolina agreed to remove a Confederate battle flag from its Statehouse grounds, and since then, there has been a wave of activity from Southern states and communities to remove their Confederate symbols.

Back in Lecompton, Bahnmaier acknowledged that it hasn't always been easy to strike the right tone in telling the story of the pro-slavery constitutional convention in 1857. For many years, he said, signs on Interstate 70 and U.S. 40 Highway pointing to Lecompton called it the "slavery capital."

That changed about 20 years ago, he said, when, "they removed the sign and designated it correctly as Lecompton, capital of the Kansas Territory."

At the time of that struggle, only the portion that is now the basement of the territorial capitol building had been completed. After statehood, when the capitol was moved to Topeka, the building was expanded to its current size and was used to house a small college called Lane University.

President Dwight Eisenhower's parents attended Lane and were married in the second story chapel of that building. Today, the building is also known as the Lane University Museum.

A few blocks away stands Constitution Hall, the building where the pro-slavery constitution was written. That building is managed by the Kansas State Historical Society, but an official at the site declined to comment for this story.

Those who come to the sites, however, generally say they are impressed with the way the story is told and interpreted, Bahnmaier said, showing copies of emails he has received from visitors.

"We appreciated how you didn't change the facts and told the truth," one visitor wrote.

"These days people often change history to fit a particular narrative," wrote another 16-year-old visitor. "However, we can never change who we are or where we came from. At the Lane Museum, though, the history is presented just the way it happened."

As for the controversy taking place in other communities, and the movement to take down Confederate monuments, Bahnmaier had no comment.

"That’s their business," he said. "Our business is to promote Lecompton and tell the story of the events that occurred here that led to the election of Lincoln. And without the events in Lecompton, he wouldn’t have been elected in 1860."

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 months ago

The Confederacy existed......it is part of the history of the country.......and yet.....there are those today who want to erase history,.....to deny that this deplorable era in our history existed.

The War between the States happened.......the north won........slavery was outlawed.....the country survived......But today there are still some "minorities" are "offended" by this history.

Get over it. Yeah...there are still some deplorable vicious racist individuals that exist to embrace and attempt to recover the past. But they are very miniscule. The do not reflect the modern attitude of anti-racism and anti-discrimination.

Yeah I know that the White Hose fails miserably in supporting this attitude, but we must still recognize history and assure that it is not repeated, ever......

Amy Varoli Elliott 2 months ago

It is time for the South to get rid of their participation trophies. No one is rewriting history people are simply saying it is time to stop sugar coating what happened, time to stop praising the traitors.

Brock Masters 2 months ago

You are showing ignorance when you call them traitors. They are US veterans and President Lincoln welcomed them back into the Union to promote healing. The statutes hurt no one and tearing them down does nothing to improve anyone's life but does divide our country.

I don't care about the statues, but I do care about the violence and destruction of public property. If a city chooses to take down the statues then so be it, but it is a criminal act for anyone or any group to do it without authority.

Your vitriol is divisive and promotes hate which promotes violence. Want another civil war? Then keep up the hate rhetoric.

Cary Ediger 2 months ago

'They are Confederate veterans and President Lincoln welcomed them back into the Union to promote healing.'

Fixed it for you.

Brock Masters 2 months ago

Go look at public law 85-425. Clearly states they are veterans.

Cary Ediger 2 months ago

Indeed for the Confederate States of America. (copy pasted for you)

PUBLIC LAW 85-426-MAY 27, 1958

CONFEDERATE FORCES VETERANS "SEC. 410. The Administrator shall pay to each person who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War a monthly pension in the same amounts and subject to the same conditions as would have been applicable to such person under the laws in effect on December 31, 1957, if his service in such forces had been service in the military or naval service of the United States." SEO, 2. This Act shall be effective from the first day of the second calendar month following its enactment. Approved May 28, 1958.

Brock Masters 2 months ago

Good point but I'd counter that the US government gave them the same status as all other US veterans which they would not do if they were traitors.

Theodore Calvin 2 months ago

Kind of getting into semantics here, and it's difficult to judge intent from the passage provided, but it is obvious they did make a distinction as to who they served. Maybe the US was a bit more gracious and wise at the time and knew that putting anyone down or distinctly labeling as a traitor and explicitly denying benefits was just as divisive and would have perpetuated the very sentiment they fought to extinguish.

Brock Masters 2 months ago

Exactly. Like Lincoln they wanted to heal the country. What is happening now is further dividing it.

William Cummings 2 months ago

Note how you had to move the goalpost when caught in your misrepresentation of facts.

William Cummings 2 months ago

No Brock, they were not made US veterans. That is just more hyperbole making the rounds on the white nationalist websites.

https://www.facingsouth.org/2015/07/busting-the-myth-that-congress-made-confederate-ve

Kevin Elliott 2 months ago

You clearly do not comprehend the point. NO ONE is re-writing history, we are just deciding what should be praised and what should be a learning point.

You are praising slavery, and I find that repugnant. I acknowledge slavery as a failed moment in our nation. I do not deny it happened or it was part of our history.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 months ago

WHO is praising slavery?? I do not find that statement in any of these posts.

MerriAnnie Smith 2 months ago

Why is it so hard to understand that people don't want to hide history. Put it all in a museum and in history books. Nobody has complained about that.

What is clearly unacceptable is statues, etc. that HONOR the historical white supremacists... the historical racists... the historical men who fought and killed people in an effort to keep human beings slaves.

Now, what I said won't penetrate your mind, Fred, because you support and honor those men and you want to shove them in the faces of the descendants of those slaves these men fought and killed people to keep as slaves.

How is it you refuse to accept that? How long, oh Lord, must you wander in the wilderness of willful ignorance?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 months ago

MerrriAnnie, your rant is about the most disgusting and repulsive retort I have ever heard. I made NO STATEMENTS about the issue of statues, etc that supposedly "honor" the Confederacy. I support their removal as much as anyone.

History happened.....History was a class that I was required to take to graduate from High School. No one was screaming that they were offended by the education of the past.

I have no support for the things that happened that motivated the Civil War.. "Shove them in the faces of the descendants" That is a lot of crap. "Willful ignorance?? YOU are the ignorant one here...

.".Those who fail to recognize the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them".

MerriAnnie Smith 2 months ago

Fred, everybody who reads your first comment up there sees it clearly. You are insulting people who are offended when people (like you) defend HONORING Confederate heroes for making that major effort to kill anybody who tried to force them to free human beings struggling under the burden of slavery.

You have not yet addressed what everyone here tried to tell you: People DO want all that in the history books and the museums. It tells the world what awful people the Confederates were on the point of keeping human beings under the burden of slavery. You keep going back to that and that is not what ANYBODY wants. We want statues that HONOR those slave-mongers out of our public view. How can this country be considered to be a humane place when we brag about and honor slave-mongers of the past?

Why can't you answer THAT question?

Btw, I grew up in Louisiana. I finished high school there. I learned very little about the Civil War in school there back in the 50's. I had to move to Kansas and take a history class in college to learn more details about the Civil War.

So, for your enhanced understanding, the south put up statues everywhere to HONOR slave-mongers but they would not allow much about the Civil War in their history books back in the 50's.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months ago

They have a museum. That's where statues belong, not in a place of honor. And history should be taught in BOOKS.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 months ago

Dorothy I am informed by news reports that book stores are in a bit of a world of hurt. The internet seems to have replaced books for reading material for some folksl. A book can be proof read for errors, misspellings, and accurate information.

Things that anyone can post on the internet can contain misrepresentations, errors and down right false information.

I agree that we need to have this in books that can at least be verified. Of course...some books are full of false information just what I mentioned about what you find on the internet. A little intelligence is required in the types of books you choose to read.

P Allen Macfarlane 2 months ago

Perhaps you could enlighten us about how your post is relevant to this discussion.

Greg Cooper 2 months ago

No, he could not. Bob does not deal in answers or comments the deal with the discussion in question.

Monica Turner 2 months ago

These people are not trying to rewrite history they are trying to erase history. For those who say Confederate history only belongs in books and museum are blind and ignorant. Museums have been attacked and I know of one that ending up closing. After the statues, monuments, and museums what's next? Will they remove the graves of Confederate soldiers even the ones of blacks and Native Americans? It's only a matter of time before books are pulled and edited

Monica Turner 2 months ago

Since they deleted half my comment... These people are not trying to rewrite history they are trying to erase history. For those who say Confederate history only belongs in books and museum are blind and ignorant. Museums have been attacked and I know of one that ending up closing. After the statues, monuments, and museums what's next? Will they remove the graves of Confederate soldiers even the ones of blacks and Native Americans? It's only a matter of time before books are pulled or edited. After that then it will be the American flag and it will be statues of the founding father's being removed. Oh wait these people have no problems with the fact that slavery has been around long before the Confederacy. Why are they not protesting the slave owners on our money, the flag that represented those men, and their names on our schools, cities, and streets. Shouldn't Native Americans be protesting for the enslavement of their people long before Africans were brought here. I hope that Lecompton continues to promote our states history without censorship. I toured there and it was fascinated and I wanted to learn more. Every place has its dark history pretending it doesn't exist will not help anybody it will just set us back. We learn from these moments so we don't repeat them.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months ago

Which museum closed? And when Native Americans protest they get rubber bullets and water canons in freezing weather. Lecompton is a history museum. Statues honor people. Museum only add to our knowledge, but you learn by reading.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months ago

It's conservatives who want to rewrite history. Even my older sisters, who was born and raised in Kansas where the Civil War really began, thinks the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. She learned differently. And slaves didn't have it good. And given a choice a person would rather NOT be kidnapped from their family, forced to endure a horrible sail across the ocean and be sold.

Look at this rewriting of history in a Texas history book (textbooks often go along with what Texas wants). They called slaves immigrants.

Where are the statues to slaves? Where are the statues honoring those people who helped slaves escape.

MerriAnnie Smith 2 months ago

High school history books in South Louisiana were edited back in the 50's when I was in high school. Very very little on the Civil War. My best memory now about those history books was that Robert E Lee was a hero.

I came to Kansas and took a history class for my 3rd college degree in the 80's and learned just about all I know now about Civil War history.... that is after 12 years of school in Louisiana.

MerriAnnie Smith 2 months ago

Seems like maybe the south would be full of statues of black American heroes of the Civil War. Do you know any of their names? Why doesn't history books and museums emphasize them?

William A. Jackson

Robert Smalls

Miles James

Andre Cailloux

James Daniel Gardner

Never heard of them, right? Nor me. I had to look them up. The history books? Where were they on BLACK heroes of the Civil War?

http://ontheblacklist.net/5-important-black-civil-war-heroes-everyone-know/

Clara Westphal 2 months ago

There were blacks who owned slaves, too. It was not just the white plantation owner. Source of information a history professor.

William Cummings 2 months ago

"There were blacks who owned slaves,"

Did the fact that they were black make it OK for them to own other people? Did it make slavery any less evil? Did it make Robert Lee and Jeff Davis heroes rather than the traitors who attempted to destroy the United States that they were?

MerriAnnie Smith 2 months ago

She knows it doesn't make it right but she needs a "whataboutthis" to answer every question she doesn't want to be honest about in answering.

Brock Masters 2 months ago

Tear down every statute and will anyone's life be better? Nope, nothing will be changed by tearing down the statues except maybe we I'll be more divided.

Let me ask, of those who support tearing down the statues, what do you want and what change that is in your control or the government's control that will make a happen?

Greg Cooper 2 months ago

This is only my opinion, Brock, but I don't think we need, or want, to forget the Confederates who had a part in the war. What I do think is that we need not put their likenesses on public display as if they were heroes of the Union, but in museums and historical areas where they can be studied and seen in context. We will never erase the terrors of the war, but context means all here. I have visited several Civil War battlegrounds and the placement of Federal and Confederate statues and memorabilia was instructive to me. As for control? I don't seek control but education. I think that will go a long way toward understanding, by everyone. And, after all is said and done, isn't understanding better that prejudice?

William Cummings 2 months ago

Stop using public dollars, public land, and other public resources to glorify the people who sought to destroy the United States and to subjugate black people.

A private citizen will always retain the right to fly their confederate flag, erect statues on their own property, and otherwise profess their view of the confederacy. The government should not spend money glorifying persons who committed treason against the US.

MerriAnnie Smith 2 months ago

Someone else said, if someone stole your child and put him up for sale on the slavery block how would you feel about statues erected to the man who stole your child as a hero?

That has happened more and more in this country and now Trump has inspired the White Supremacists and Neo Nazis to come out of hiding and worship at the feet of their heroes who stole people, even children, and sold them to the highest bidder, who then raped many of the women, beat the slaves and sold their children.

That has been just a short time in history ago and the descendants of those slaves are still acutely aware of what happened to their ancestors. To see those statues honoring the men who did that to their great grandparents and their parents IS painful, and causes deep anger and hatred at people who would defend those statues.

Men like you, Brock.

Brock Masters 2 months ago

Not once did I defend the statues. I only ask what good will it do to tear them down now? Is it uniting our country or dividing it more? Is it quelling the racial hatred or fueling it? Will it provide more jobs for young black men or stop the murder of them? Will it fix the schools in poor neighborhoods or repair broken families?

Nope. Nothing good will come out of this.

MerriAnnie Smith 2 months ago

It's amazing, Brock, how you keep saying you understand but then you refuse to read my comment obviously because the thing you keep saying in your comments... that nothing good will come of it... is answered in many posts, including mine, right here in this thread.

The good will be that FINALLY black people will know that white people in this country (the majority of us) actually do care when White Supremacist erect statues in public that honor the men who stole their ancestors and sold them into slavery, causing their race to be centuries later in being able to adjust to life in this country... unlike my white ancestors, and likely your own as well.

The answer is there. Read the comments again. You'll see if you are not dead set in not caring about the good it will do.

Brock Masters 2 months ago

You are right we should not honor people that supported slavery but we should act wisely to unite our country in this most divided time.

Making an issue of the statues now is destructive. It is fueling hate and violence and no long term good will come out of it.

Time, energy and resources should be focused on meaningful issues like jobs, education crime and the cycle of poverty. Tearing down lol the statues will do nothing to fix these problems but is an effective recruitment tool for racist.

The selective outrage of the left is counterproductive. we need to condemn all evil, not just some of the evil in our country. We need to rid our country of all racial discrimination and not some of it.

Keep,this up and we will surely having Civil War II.

William Cummings 2 months ago

"The selective outrage of the left is counterproductive. "

In Charlottesville, as in most of the places where statue removal has occurred, the removal was a decision of the local authorities. Said decision was the result of a debate among the local citizens, who had a democratic opportunity to either support or oppose said decision. As in all controversial decisions, there were winners and losers.

Enter the "Unite the Right" protest, which was ostensibly to somehow redress the removal of a statue. Rather than focusing on the "statue" issue, a group of outsiders comes in leading with "Jews will not replace us" "blood and soil", along with imagery reminiscent of Nazi and KKK rallies. Said group murders a young woman who opposes them, injures a number of other citizens. Following the murder, the organizer calls the murder victim a "fat disgusting communist." Other denigration of the victim followed.

Yes, a group engaged in selective outrage. A group was outraged that a local community might dare to use the democratic process to challenge the status quo which glorifies those who committed treason and attempted to subjugate and enslave another race. When a citizen who disagreed with them was murdered for voicing her opinion, no outrage whatsoever. Only denigration and disrespect, and an attempt to pretend that it was the fault of the victim. Said group has been silent during the numerous attacks on persons of color both recently and through the years.

I will leave this with some points that we appear to agree on:

1 A decision to remove a statue should remain with the local authorities. 2 The unauthorized removal of a statue by protesters is a crime that should be addressed through the justice system.

Bob Smith 2 months ago

Will George Washington and Thomas Jefferson wind up on the chopping block? Stay tuned.

Chris Warman 2 months ago

If we are going to re-write history, can we eliminate Missouri Street in Lawrence? It annoys me when I drive by it.

Cary Ediger 2 months ago

or just change it to: Missouri Sucks Street

Brock Masters 2 months ago

I hear lots of grievances and complaints, but no solutions. What change is needed to make America better for all?

I asked before what change within your control or the governments control will improve our country?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 month, 4 weeks ago

I would like to hear any of the conservatives denounce the group that was carrying Tiki torches and chanting their nasty chants. Waiting.

Bob Smith 1 month, 4 weeks ago

There appear to be people in NYC who want to remove Grant's tomb from their fair city. There is no end to the madness.

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