History Faculty Publications and Presentations

"This is Not Dixie:" The Imagined South, the Kansas Free State Narrative, and the Rhetoric of Racist Violence

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This essay explores how white Kansans employed images of the "South" and its association with racist violence in constituting the identity of Kansas as the "Free State" from 1865 until 1914. It argues that prevailing assumptions about the South offered a sectional imaginary through which white Kansans interpreted the racist violence in their own midst. On the one hand, the South, and the violence that occurred there, provided a means to obscure, dismiss, and justify incidents in Kansas, allowing commentators to cultivate a sort of historical amnesia, to deem each subsequent episode an anomaly, the exception that proved the rule of Midwestern virtue. On the other hand, the idea of the South constituted a powerful enticement for resistance to racist violence among white Kansans fearful of becoming associated with it. The essay relies primarily on the analysis of contemporary white state newspaper coverage of racist violence.

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Southern Spaces