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Sources: M.J. Morgan, 785-532-6730,;
and Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, 785-532-6730,
Web site:

Thursday, May 14, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Kansas State University's Chapman Center for Rural Studies, in collaboration with the Wabaunsee County Museum and Historical Society, will open a museum exhibit Saturday, June 6, in Alma to mark the sesquicentennial of Wabaunsee County.

Under the direction of M.J. Morgan, adjunct professor of history at K-State, four Chapman Center interns have created a permanent exhibit on early African-American settlers in Wabaunsee County. The interns have been pursuing individual research projects on different aspects of African-American life before 1920. The exhibit will be on display at the Wabaunsee County Courthouse in Alma for the sesquicentennial celebration, and then turned over to the county's Museum and Historical Society.

In addition, several K-State undergraduate and graduate student researchers from Morgan's fall 2008 and spring 2009 African-American Kansas classes created and contributed information for a storyboard display which also will be available at the courthouse for the June 6 celebration. The storyboards highlight the experience of the Exodusters fleeing the oppressive and violent South of the 1880s.

"This really has been a major collaborative effort," Morgan said. "We worked with museum board members in Wabaunsee County, relying on their knowledge and expertise. My students conducted interviews based on board member tips, walked township landscapes with elderly residents, located remote cemeteries, and spent hours reconstructing this early black settlement narrative."

The storyboard display will be available on the second floor of Eisenhower Hall, just across from the K-State department of history office, until it is taken to Alma for the sesquicentennial.

Students participating in the project and their research or contributions include:

J.C. Rivers, senior in arts and sciences-open option, Alma, contributed research, maps and photographs to the storyboard exhibit.

Allana Saenger, senior in history and a Chapman Center intern, Augusta, researched the Paxico Blues Festival, tracing its roots back to a vibrant culture of church and celebratory music with connections to Topeka and Kansas City blues.

Phil Cunningham, sophomore in history, Manhattan, investigated a black Union soldier who farmed in southern Wabaunsee County.

Maggie Henson, junior in history and a Chapman Center intern, Manhattan, has been researching medical care for early black residents of Wabaunsee and Riley counties. She has pursued leads ranging from trace accounts of black midwives to folk medicine practices.

Katie Machutta, senior in history, Manhattan, researched the integrated one-room schools of Wabaunsee County.

Sandra Reddish, doctoral student in history, Manhattan, contributed research, maps and photographs to the storyboard exhibit.

Janeal Schmidt, master's student in history, Minneapolis, contributed research, maps and photographs to the storyboard exhibit.

Jamie Schendt, a sophomore in history, Overland Park, mined the archives at the courthouse in Alma for his project on the Bean School. The school was attended by the first black graduate of K-State, Washington Owen, class of 1899, who grew up on a farm in Wabaunsee County.

Rebecca Bush, senior in history and Chapman Center intern, Pratt, researched the locations of the first black churches in Wabaunsee County. "I'm very excited about this exhibit," she said. "I've put a lot of miles on my car since January, but it's been worth it." Bush has been accepted for graduate school in public history at the University of South Carolina.

Rymonda Davis, freshman in pre-journalism and mass communications and a Chapman Center intern, Fort Worth, Texas, conducted interviews with black women in three counties, examining changes in gender relations between the 1930s and today. Davis also is a member of K-State's Developing Scholars Program.