Blacks and mixed-race couples came to Kansas in the 1800s
This article contains information Susan Lloyd Franzen wrote in her 1999 article for the JC Union newspaper on the topic of early black and mixed-race couples who settled in Junction City.
“The census of 1880 reveals differences in occupation between those in the 1860s and those in the 1870s. There were fewer ranch hands and more farmers or farm laborers. Some of this came from the fact that the frontier was past, and the land was settled. It may also reflect an import migration of Southern black farmers. This was the “Black Exodus” at the end of Reconstruction in the South.
After 1878, as Federal troops no longer guaranteed black civil rights in the former Confederate states, laws limiting the freedom of African Americans were passed there. Seeing the power going back into the hands of former slave owners, blacks sought new homes in a state which guaranteed their rights to vote, education and some economic opportunity. Because of the Free State settlers before the Civil War, Kansas was presented as a “Black Canaan,” a promised land of new beginnings. Thousands of black people sold everything they had to buy passage to Kansas.
Mixed race couples had even more to fear in the South than did blacks, so perhaps the Exodus also explains the presence of such couples living in or near Junction City.
The census documents two interracial households. From the makeup of these households it would appear they were not isolated from the black community. Richard Chin, a 26-year-old black man, was married to Henrietta, a 22-year-old white woman from Indiana, and they had a 2-year-old daughter, Nettie Jane, born in Kansas, who was designated a “Mulatto” in the census. The family may have lived in Junction City for decades thereafter because there is a Pennell photograph from 1905 of Tom Chin, a light-skinned black man.
The second interracial family was a middle-aged couple, Anthony and Eliza Key, a black man and white woman, with her white 23-year-old daughter and a 45-year-old black boarder.
These records indicate the interracial acceptance in Junction City even in the nineteenth century.”
Early black churches in Junction City
Susan Lloyd Franzen also wrote the following information in a 1999 article for the JC Union newspaper about early black churches in Junction City. This is some of what she wrote.
“In 1873, a few members of the small African American community felt committed enough to their home in Junction City to establish a Baptist Church. They proudly proclaimed themselves the First Baptist Church and were accepted into a regional church conference by that name.
At once a controversy erupted because there was already a Baptist church in town, although it had neglected to give itself any name other than “Baptist Church.” The church was founded in 1868 and was one which white members insisted that it was entitled to be called “First Baptist” while the new church, which had black members, would have to find another name. Although they protested, the members of the new church adopted the name of “Second Baptist Church” which later became Second Missionary Baptist.
By any name, the Second Baptist Church was a vital institution from the beginning. Its members set about erecting a church building at 530 West Sixth Street. The first church board consisted of Alex Johnson, Pascal Hammond and Jack Turner.
Before the decade was finished, a second black church was established. In 1879, the Ward Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church built its building at Ninth and Jefferson Streets under the leadership of Reverend Alvin Haskin.
When asked about the differences between the Baptist and AME churches, present-day members explain that people wanted to go to the churches they had belonged in the South. Also, the pastors were important.
The relative racial tolerance of Junction City and presence of the black churches was a source of pride for white promoters of Junction City. When land agents Greene and Bartell published an illustrated booklet describing the businesses and cultural establishment of Junction City, they included drawings of both the Second Baptist and AME churches. It was clear that the promoters considered a significant churchgoing “colored” population to be a positive selling point for Junction City.
Family stories, records and photographs give a livelier picture of the people.” Our Curator at the Geary County Historical Society would appreciate copies of records and photographs and will consider accepting donations of the originals.