The free port of Quindaro has haunted the memories of the residents of Kansas City, Kansas since its founding and subsequent disappearance beneath the brush lining the banks along the Missouri River. The story of Quindaro is not limited to its heady pre-war success and subsequent failure and abandonment by the white abolitionists who founded it. The town site became home for immigrant African-Americans migrating North during and after the Civil War.
After the war, the population increased and the settlement was moved out of the gully where it was nestled close to the bluff overlooking the Missouri River to the top of the hill in an area known as Bell Crossing. There the nucleus of the African-American population in the Wyandotte County was established. Churches and schools anchored a small African-American community in that area of the newly established Wyandotte County.
Many African-American emigrants from the South used the rivers for transportation North, and in the river bottom between what was then the Kansas town of Wyandotte and the Missouri town of Kansas City, a temporary colony was established for these African-American emigrants. Many moved on, but of those who stayed, many moved to the nearby bluff called Juniper. 1. Adjacent to Juniper, in an area known as Rattlebone Hollow, German immigrants had established a settlement. The early integration of these two groups of immigrants in these contiguous geographic areas underwent gradual erosion until it became largely an African-American enclave in the early years of the nineteenth century. White movement out of the area left Juniper and Rattlebone Hollow nearly all African-American communities. This area in the northeast section of Kansas City, Kansas became the second anchor of the African-American population in Kansas City, Kansas.
Historically, much of the African-American population of Kansas City, Kansas today traces its roots to this area where most of the churches, schools, businesses and other institutions vital to the existence of community were African-American owned and operated. As African-Americans continued to move into the area after the Civil War, they gathered into these two historical settlement areas while others scattered throughout Wyandotte County.
The Third Ward stretched north from State Avenue to the Missouri River between 7th and 10th Streets in the town of Wyandotte and was an early home to many African-Americans and whites as well. It, too, became a mostly African-American community after the turn of the century. The 1855 Territorial Census showed a total population of 1,944 in Districts 16 and 17, wherein lies today's Wyandotte County. It also listed 56 slaves and 19 "free Negroes." By 1865, there were 11,622 residents in Wyandotte County, 1,323 of whom were African-Americans. African-Americans were by far the largest minority in the area, foreign born citizens and Native Americans numbering 552 and 259 respectively.
Reaction to the large influx of African-Americans into Wyandotte County and the town of Wyandotte was wary. The Wyandotte Herald described the 1879 exodus in this way.
The following resolutions were adopted.
To The People of The United States:
Within the last two weeks over a thousand Negroes, direct from the South, have landed at Wyandott. None of them have money to carry them further west, or to purchase the necessary wherewithal to supply their most urgent necessities of food and shelter. Large numbers have died, and at least 5% of the whole number are sick with pneumonia and kindred complaints. In a word, over a thousand paupers have within a very short period of time been thrown into a town of about five thousand people, who are unable toproperly provide for their wants.
These people are possessed of the most visionary ideas concerning what they must confront when coming to Kansas. Their sole idea seems to be to get West to go where the government land can be occupied, but they are wholly destitute of means to improve it or to sustaoin themselves until they can cultivate a crop. Go where they will in Kansas, they must be provided and cared for, or they will perish. We have reliable reliable information that thousands more are coming. If so, the situaton will soon be a serious one for the deluded, helpless and ignorant Negroes who are blind;y rushing to Kansas, and a mighty burden will be thrown on our people. They must become virtually a public charge upon the communities where they may happen to be cast.
In view of the state of facts, we, the undersigned citizens of Wyandott, Kansas denounce those who are encouraging these people to come to Kansas as really their worst enemies. We further say that the sentiments of this protest and memorials are those of the people of Kansas without regard to party and we request papers throughout the country to publish this protest and warning.
Some of the colored refugees say that they prefer living in the South to coming to Kansas, but that the whites will not sell them any land there, hence, they came to Kansas to secure homes of their own. We are authorized by Dr. McDowell to say that he will sell any of them good cotton land for $1.50 an acre and guarantee that they can catch more opossums on the land than will pay for it.
( Format according to Chicago Manual of Style)
1. Perl Morgan, History of Wyandotte County and Its People (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1911), 224.
2. Susan D. Greenbaum, The Afro-American Community in Kansas City, Kansas (City of Kansas City, Kansas, 1982), 30-31.