In 1539, Marcos de Niza, a friar, reported rumors of Cíbola, a city of gold, to Spanish colonial officials in Mexico City. Niza said the city was in modern-day New Mexico. In response to the rumors, two years later, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado,with an army of 3000 Spaniards and 8001 Mexicans, marched northward from Culiacán in hopes of finding the city.When Coronado did not find the city in New Mexico, he continued northeast into the Mississippi Valley, crossing the present area of Kansas diagonally. This made Conrado and his army the first Europeans to see the Great Plains, including Kansas. Later,
Juan de Oñate also traveled to Kansas in 1601.
Hennepin and other French leaders took formal control of the Mississippi Valley, including the land that would become Kansas. This land, known as the Louisiana territory, was used to organize trade with Native Americans. In 1762, France
ceded the Louisiana territory to Spain. However, in 1801, Spain receded the territory back to France in the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso. On April 30, 1803, Napoleon sold the Louisiana territory to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. In the early 1800s, Kansas was used to hold Native Americans that were removed from their native lands.
On May 30, 1854, the Congress signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Kansas-Nebraska Act stated that Kansas and Nebraska were both territories of the United States. It also stated that Kansans would vote on the legality of slavery.
Upon hearing this, about 1,200 armed New Englanders came to Kansas to vote against slavery. However, thousands of southerners, mostly from Missouri, came to vote for slavery. The final vote was to make slavery legal, and Kansas adopted most of Missouri's slave laws. There was fighting between Southerners and Northerners in Kansas. In one fight, John Brown and his men killed five people in the Pottawatomie Massacre. Later, Southerners destroyed Lawrence, Kansas. Kansas was called "Bleeding Kansas".
Between 1854 and 1861, Kansas proposed four state constitutions. Out of the four proposed constitutions, three did not allow slavery. Finally, in July 1859, Kansas passed the Wyandotte Constitution, which was anti-slavery. The constitution for statehood was sent to the U.S. government in April 1860 to be voted on. The constitution was passed by the House of Representatives, but rejected by the Senate. This is because southern voters in the Senate did not like that Kansas would become a state without slavery. In 1861, after the Confederate states formed, the constitution gained approval from the Union, and Kansas became a state.
Kansas in the Civil War
The Lawrence Massacre on August 21, 1863
Four months after Kansas became a state, the Civil War started. Out of the 381 battles in the Civil War, four were fought in Kansas. Throughout the war, Kansas remained a Union state.
On August 21, 1863, William Clarke Quantrill led a force of 300 to 400 Confederates into the town of Lawrence, Kansas. Quantrill and his troops burned, looted, and destroyed the anti-slavery town. This battle became known as the Lawrence Massacre. In total, 164 Union soldiers and 40 Confederate soldiers died in the Lawrence Massacre. In the Battle of Mine Creek, on October 25, 1864, Union soldiers attacked Confederates as they were crossing the Mine Creek. The Union surrounded the Confederates, and captured 600 men and two generals. 1,000 Confederate soldiers and 100 Union soldiers died in the battle. In total, 8,500 people from Kansas died or were wounded in the Civil War.
Post Civil War
After the Civil War, many free slaves came to Oklahoma and Kansas. In fact, between the years of 1879 and 1881, about 60,000 African Americans came to this region. This is because the slaves wanted economic opportunities, which they believed awaited them in Kansas. African Americans also came to Kansas for better political rights and to escape sharecropping. These people were called "Exodusters."
From 1930 to 1936, Kansas went through a period of time called the Dust Bowl. During this time, Kansas had little rainfall and high temperatures. Thousands of farmers became very poor and had to move to other parts of the United States. In total, 400,000 people left the Great Plains area. The years from 1930 to 1940 was the only time the population of Kansas went down. The number of people living in Kansas decreased 4.3 percent.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas
During the 1950s, school segregation was required in fifteen U.S states. However, Kansas was not one of these states. Instead, school segregation was permitted by local option, but only in elementary schools. In 1896, the ruling from Plessy v. Ferguson stated that segregation was allowed, but equal facilities should be made available for blacks and whites. Often, however, black schools received less funding and had fewer textbooks than white schools.
For these reasons, Linda Brown and her family sued the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Brown won the case, and the ruling was to overturn the Plessy v. Ferguson decision. This was considered by many a landmark case in the civil rights movement.