A casual tourist in Topeka today will find little remaining of its turbulent past – a history that once earned its state the name Bleeding Kansas. Before the 34th state was admitted to the Union, pro-slavery and abolitionist forces clashed repeatedly, vying for control of Kansas’ political future. Topeka was a free-state town, an abolitionist stronghold that once built fortifications to defend itself from invasion. The violent showdown in Kansas is now remembered as a prelude to the American Civil War.
Later, Oliver Brown, a resident of Topeka, would become the named plaintiff in the Brown v. Board of Education case, a major milestone of the civil rights movement. This legacy of a state at the crossroads is part of Topeka’s identity today: in the Kansas State Capitol building, a mural painted by John Steuart Curry showcases the tragedy and grandeur of a state that chose freedom, even at great cost.
Today, an entire museum dedicated to legendary stunt-performer Evel Knievel, as well as various historical sites, museums, and tourist attractions draw visitors to Topeka every year.
Worth Checking Out
- Topeka Zoo
- Evel Knievel Museum
- Kansas Museum of History