Wake Nicodemus
February 6, 2006 9:48 AM   Subscribe

NIcodemus, Kansas is the only remaining western community established by African Americans after the Civil War. The promise of freedom and land in the state of John Brown. Though prosperous in the 1880's, it began to fade. Its post office closed in 1953. It is now home to only 27 residents, with an average age of 80, but the "Promise Land" has hope. Wake Nicodemus, wake.
posted by ozomatli (23 comments total)
 
Here is a bit more info and a map so you can get the general feel of where Nicodemus is for those of you not familiar with the state of Kansas.
posted by ozomatli at 9:50 AM on February 6, 2006


The John Brown link is broken... also, I thought West VA was the state of John Brown...
posted by jonson at 10:32 AM on February 6, 2006


Remarkable though it may seem, I've been to Nicodemus. My grandparents didn't live far from there in a little town called Mankato. I've got to tell you, it's not that different from dozens of other little towns along the Kansas/Nebraska border. Young folks have been leavin' for years, and only the old folks remain. The average age in the upper Midwest in general is far above the national average. These town are going to dissappear--many already have.

I don't think John Brown was really from Kansas, though he practiced terrorism there (and MO and VA).
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:43 AM on February 6, 2006


damn the link worked for me...
lemme get a new one.

I think John Brown is indelibly linked with the Bleeding Kansas. This mural is in the Kansas State Capitol.
posted by ozomatli at 10:43 AM on February 6, 2006


I know he was not born in KS, but we was from Kansas and one of the more famous ones. He was in fact well known as Old Brown of Kansas. One man's terrorist is anothor's freedom fighter... but lets not derail on that topic.
posted by ozomatli at 10:48 AM on February 6, 2006


Actually, there's are several small ranch settlements in the Capay Valley near Guinda, California that were also founded by African American settlers and are going strong even today.
posted by luriete at 10:51 AM on February 6, 2006


John Brown's terrorism in Kansas is actually more murky than your history class tells you. He didn't actually start the bleeding in Kansas, he merely retaliated against pro-slavery terrorists who forced their own people into office at the point of a gun. He certainly wasn't as far away from mainstream thought as you'd think, Thoreau wrote him a glowing obituary, and both Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass sang his praises.
posted by unreason at 11:03 AM on February 6, 2006


If you want a different view of John Brown, try reading WEB DuBois' biography; it tells his story from a whole different perspective.
posted by unreason at 11:06 AM on February 6, 2006


interesting post, ozomatli - thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 11:20 AM on February 6, 2006


Nice post, ozomatli!
posted by unreason at 11:29 AM on February 6, 2006


Very interesting, thanks.
posted by Miko at 11:55 AM on February 6, 2006


That John Brown mural is my desktop image, and I have no connection to Kansas whatsoever.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:45 PM on February 6, 2006


Sorry to derail, but I don't know if I would call killing innocent people for the sole purpose of frightening a good part of the citizenry "mere retaliation." I grant, unreason, that you call Brown's actions "terrorism," so I'd say we are really on the same page.

Sorry to be such a pedant, but John Brown was neither born in Kansas nor really "from" Kansas in any sense we understand. He was one of many abolitionists from parts eastern who moved there to fight Slavery. I think he spent under 2 years in Kansas, though as I get older I tend to forget such things...
posted by MarshallPoe at 12:50 PM on February 6, 2006


Sorry to derail, but I don't know if I would call killing innocent people

If you mean the people he killed in the famous massacre in Kansas, they were not innocent. They had participated in the forced takeover of the local government, had already attacked several abolitionists, and had publicly spoke of their plans to kill Brown and his family.
posted by unreason at 12:53 PM on February 6, 2006


Equally relevant is that most of the pro-slavery folks weren't from Kansas either; they had come out specifically with the intention of making Kansas a slave state by force.
posted by unreason at 12:55 PM on February 6, 2006


To slaves of the day, John Brown and Kansas were inexoribly linked. You may be correct in that he was never born in Kansas and spent a small percentage of his life there, but that is not the point. I linked to John Brown becuase of one of the quotes from a settler:

"I am anxious to reach your state ... because of the sacredness of her soil washed by the blood of humanitarians for the cause of freedom."

To me he infers a connection to John Brown and Bleeding Kansas. I think a major reason for black settlement to Kansas was becuase of the influence of John Brown's actions.
posted by ozomatli at 1:05 PM on February 6, 2006


They had participated in the forced takeover of the local government, had already attacked several abolitionists, and had publicly spoke of their plans to kill Brown and his family.

John Brown didn't like the 5th Amendment, and niether does unreason, but it seems relevant: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law ..." Right? Innocent until proven guilty, right?

No matter, we agree the guy was a terrorist (and that he was, despite his unethical methods, was on the right side).
posted by MarshallPoe at 2:45 PM on February 6, 2006


If you ever visit Nicodemus, be sure to check out the Garden of Eden in Lucas as well.
posted by drstrangelove at 3:00 PM on February 6, 2006


Let me just settle one point: Almost nobody in Kansas in the 1850s was "from Kansas", which had been legally designated as Indian Territory. Settlement was only opened up in 1854; within less than a year, the eastern counties were flooded with some 8500 immigrants, a majority from free states.
posted by dhartung at 4:34 PM on February 6, 2006


John Brown didn't like the 5th Amendment, and niether does unreason, but it seems relevant: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law ..." Right? Innocent until proven guilty, right?

I certainly believe in the 5th Amendment. I'm just saying that the situation was not that John Brown came to peaceful Kansas and started killing innocent people. He came to a state that was overrun by pro-slavery thugs. He was faced with men who had publically said that they were going to kill him and his family, who had already killed other abolitionists. As for due process, that was impossible, since the pro-slavery people had forced the legitimate Kansas government out of office at gunpoint after the elections didn't go their way. There was no real law to turn to, the slavers had seen to that. I'm not saying that everything that Brown did was great, but expecting Brown to go to the Kansas courts would be like expecting a slave to sue his master for back pay in pre-civil war Virginia rather than to break the law by escaping.
posted by unreason at 5:16 PM on February 6, 2006


Oklahoma also had African American towns, more than any other state.
posted by shoesietart at 5:31 PM on February 6, 2006


Hmm, maybe I should just do a John Brown post. Thanks for the inspiration, ozomatli.
posted by unreason at 5:35 PM on February 6, 2006


Interesting post, oz. Thank you.
posted by darkstar at 4:08 PM on February 7, 2006


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