Camouflaged within the landscape of the Great Plains in western Kansas is Nicodemus National Historic Site. A seemingly simple rural community, Nicodemus is a symbol of the strength, determination, and endurance of African-Americans who settled here.
While Nicodemus exhibited promise and hope of becoming a flourishing community of former slaves, the town suffered greatly when the Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific railroad were rerouted south and north of the town. This led to loss of jobs and a declining population.
Even with its disheartening decline, the roots and history of Nicodemus persevered and the original settlers along with their descendants make sure the story, their story, was never forgotten. While very few live in the town today, the descendants champion for the history and its stories to be told. Every year, in late July, the Emancipation Celebration, now known as the Homecoming Celebration, takes place. The tradition is itself historic because it has occurred annually since 1878 after the settlers arrived. It’s a special festival that has descendants from all over the United States, as well as the world, come “home” to celebrate their roots, history, and stories.
While there were many other communities settled on similar ideas during the “Exoduster” movement, after the Civil War, Nicodemus is the only community from that time period that exists today. Nicodemus not only holds its own history and symbolism, but it is a symbol for the strength, determination, and perseverance of all former slaves and African-Americans finding a new life after the Civil War.
Last updated: May 17, 2019