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K-State students help Wabaunsee County residents celebrate their history

 

Native American portrait on poster for sesquicentennialKansas State University's Chapman Center for Rural Studies, in collaboration with the Wabaunsee County Museum and Historical Society, opened a museum exhibit 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 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 was on display at the Wabaunsee County Courthouse in Alma for the sesquicentennial celebration, and then was 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."