As the United States grew, the Missouri-Kansas border became a bustling crossroads where merchandise, cultures
and beliefs mixed and changed to take on a character of their own. As people
headed up river or over land along the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails
during the early 19th Century, their inherited cultures paralleled, crossed and
became entwined creating starkly different interpretations of, and
reactions to, national forces and local activities. These different cultures brought contrasting notions of “liberty”
and “freedom.” Questions of personal liberty, personal property, freedom of
choice and freedom to associate were all brought to the forefront when the
Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 reopened questions and conflicts that had smoldered
since the Missouri Compromise of 1820.
Crossroads of Conflict: Contested Visions of Freedom and the Missouri-Kansas Border Wars is a Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for Teachers that explores historic homes and public buildings, townscapes and museum collections in light of recent research to understand the clash of cultures and differing definitions of “freedom” that played out on the Missouri-Kansas border. NEH Summer Scholars will consider the forces and events that led to the abandonment of the understandings reached in the Missouri Compromise, the rejection of popular sovereignty in the Kansas Territory and the establishment of the shadow “Free State” government. They will examine the nature and intensity of the struggles between the Kansas Jayhawkers and Missouri Bushwhackers and the general mayhem these vicious disputes engendered along the Missouri-Kansas border during Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War.
The Crossroads of Conflict workshop will give K-12 teachers fresh tools for using historical settings, architecture, material culture, art and drama, along with historical documents and records to enable students to engage the past and gain a better understanding of the forces that shaped and continue to influence national and regional history.