Expert on the history of the nation’s longest-standing Black homesteader colony to speak at KU

photo by: Contributed

Angela Bates, executive director of the Nicodemus Historical Society

An expert on the history of Nicodemus — the small Kansas community that is the nation’s longest-standing Black homesteader colony — will speak at KU next week.

Angela Bates, founder and executive director of the Nicodemus Historical Society, will give a public presentation at 1 p.m. on July 10 at the Spencer Research Library’s North Gallery on KU’s Lawrence campus.

Bates is a descendant of the original settlers of the town, which was founded in 1877 by African Americans who migrated from the southern United States shortly after the Civil War. The unincorporated community still exists today and is home to a National Park Service site. The community, which as of the 2020 census had 14 residents, is located north and west of Hays.

Bates will discuss the national significance of Nicodemus, which she said helps shine a light on the large, often little-studied period between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.

“That whole chapter is just missing, and people don’t know about it, so I’m hoping through the story of Nicodemus they will understand what African Americans did with their freedom,” Bates said in a KU release.

The Nicodemus Historical Society and the University of Kansas have been partners for more than 30 years, with KU Libraries storing many historic photographs, documents and diaries related to the Nicodemus community.

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