Lecture series to commemorate 150th anniversary of Kansas-Nebraska Act

Released on 09/14/2004, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Monday, Sep. 20, 2004, through Nov. 8, 2004

WHERE: Warner Senate Chambers, Nebraska Capitol Building

Lincoln, Neb., September 14th, 2004 —

The Nebraska Humanities Council and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will sponsor a four-part lecture series at the State Capitol to commemorate the passage and examine the legacy of the Kansas-Nebraska of 1854.

The series begins on Sept. 20 with a lecture, "The Kansas-Nebraska Act and American Political Culture," by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mark Neely Jr. of Pennsylvania State University. Neely will discuss the origins of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and what makes it so significant in American history. This lecture will double as the UNL Department of History's Pauley Lecture.

Neely's lecture and all subsequent lectures will be from 7:30-9 p.m. in the Warner Senate Chambers of the Nebraska Capitol Building. All lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, contact professors Ken Winkle or Margaret Jacobs in the UNL History Department, (402) 472-2414.

One hundred fifty years ago, an act of Congress signed into law by President Franklin Pierce officially created Nebraska. Termed "An Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas," this statute represented a new kind of territorial organic act. It not only drew the borders and authorized governments in Nebraska and Kansas, but allowed the citizens of the territories to determine for themselves whether they might allow or ban slavery within their boundaries. This bow to local control, known then as popular sovereignty, caused a great deal of anguish and considerable bloodshed.

Who might have anticipated that seven years later in 1861 the United States would shatter and the Confederate States and the Union would struggle through a four-year civil war to the death? Unionism prevailed, but the historical importance of the Kansas-Nebraska Act would not be lessened. Most historians agree that the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Kansas' subsequent mini-civil war accentuated the nation's cultural divide over slavery and hastened the day when American shot American.

Other lectures in the series are:

* Oct. 4 -- "Where Popular Sovereignty Worked: The Kansas-Nebraska Act and Nebraska Territory," Nicole Etcheson, University of Texas at El Paso;

* Oct. 25 -- "Unpopular Sovereignty: African American Reactions and Resistance to the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, " Walter Rucker, Ohio State University;

* Nov. 8 -- a panel of scholars, including James Rawley of UNL (emeritus), Phillip Paludan of the University of Illinois at Springfield, Tekla Johnson of Charlotte, N.C., and Winkle, who will each speak from the perspective of a prominent leader of the time who was involved in the politics surrounding the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

CONTACTS: Ken Winkle, Professor & Chair, History, (402) 472-2414; and
Margaret Jacobs, Assoc. Professor, History (402) 472-2417