Kansas Remembers Slavery Struggle During 125th Anniversary Celebration
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas, born 125 years ago amid bloodshed between slavers and abolitionists, opened a year of birthday observations with cannon fire and jets flying low over the Capitol.
″Kansas was born out of struggle, a struggle for freedom,″ Gov. John Carlin told a crowd estimated at 1,000, shivering in 31-degree weather for Kansas Day ceremonies at the Capitol on Wednesday.
After his speech, Carlin inspected National Guard troops as Guard cannons fired a 19-gun salute, four F-4 fighters streaked over the Capitol dome and martial music played. The ceremony ended with the state song, ″Home on the Range.″
President Reagan sent a telegram congratulating Kansas for the ″titanic moral struggle against slavery″ that began in 1854, when Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska act.
That dumped an agreement that no new slave states would be permitted north of the southern border of Missouri, which allowed slavery. To appease the South, the Kansas-Nebraska Bill left the question up to settlers in the new territories.
Political violence quickly began between free-state and proslavery forces. Hundreds died in violence that degenerated into guerilla warfare. The fighting continued after Kansas was admitted to the union on Jan. 29, 1861. The Civil War erupted about 12 weeks later.
″Certainly the great state of Kansas is an integral part of the story of America,″ Reagan said. ″At the very moment when other states were seceding from the union, Kansas sought and obtained admission to the union as a free state.″
Carlin told the crowd that the state must work to build a bright future but Kansans should not forget their heritage and the national experiment set in motion by the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
″Those pioneers of an earlier day took risks, and they knew the consequences of those risks,″ Carlin said. ″We earned the label of ‘Bleeding Kansas’ before the experiment concluded with our admission to the union as a free state on Jan. 29, 1861.″
Members of the Kansas Supreme Court, legislative leaders, former astronaut Ron Evans, actress Marj Dusay and writer Robert Day also attended the ceremony.
A number of local observances took place across the state, said Mike Swenson, Carlin’s press secretary and a spokesman for the festivities. Six regional celebrations and more than 400 local festivals are planned this year, Swenson said.