Forgotten Anniversaries


I moved to the Lawrence area as an adult. Even after many years here, I still have the zeal of a convert when it comes to my adopted hometown. The reckless idealism of the early settlers resonates with me. As evil as the institution of American slavery was, I confront that abomination from the safe perspective a century and a half can bring. I can tell myself that I would have been brave enough to risk my life to end that peculiar institution, but I can never know.

The early settlers of Lawrence did not have to wonder about the level of their devotion to the proposition that all men are created equal. Their very existence in the Free State headquarters that was Lawrence put their lives in danger--often unexpectedly. The name "Bleeding Kansas" was hard earned.

152 years ago, Quantrill's Raid burned much of the city to the ground and left 85 widows. The men who wrought that destruction sought to preserve the institution of chattel slavery, but those who survived had a higher calling. This is an anniversary forgotten by many, I know, but well worth remembering.

I can't imagine the perseverance required to bury your dead and rebuild your town all the while knowing the ruffians could return, as they had so often before, but the Free Staters did just that. I'm lucky they did, so that I could make this place my home; wherever you live, you are fortunate they did, because they made us all a little bit more free.