Every settler who staked a claim on the open range of Western Kansas carried with them the hope of finding a better life. For the citizens of Nicodemus, a township thirty-seven miles north of WaKeeney, that dream included the very basic human right to freedom.
Founded in 1877, Nicodemus, Kansas is the only remaining western town established by freed African Americans during the Reconstruction Period that followed on the heels of the Civil War. Tom Johnson and John Samuels, two founders of Nicodemus and former slaves of U.S. Vice President Richard M. Johnson, made it their goal to establish the first all-black settlement on the Great Plains, and the paradise they chose is Trego County’s northern neighbor; Graham County. Several families, referred to as “Exodusters,” joined in with their endeavor, viewing Kansas’s fertile farmland and political leanings as an opportunity to claim their personal dignity and take charge of their God-given destiny for the first time in their lives.
To celebrate the 155th anniversary of Kansas statehood, the Trego County Historical Society has invited Angela Bates, executive director of the Nicodemus Historical Society to present “The Nicodemus Connection to a Vice President” at a free event on Sunday, January 31st at 2pm at the Western Cooperative Electric meeting room in WaKeeney.
Join us as we learn about another facet of our region’s history this weekend when Angela Bates brings the African American’s pioneering spirit out of the shadows through the personal stories of men who, after a lifetime of bondage, pursued the American Dream in Western Kansas.
“Slavery should be looked at, explored, and discussed without the blame, shame, guilt, or anger, which cloud our views and limits our understanding.”
— Angela Bates, Exec. Dir. of the Nicodemus Historical Society