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“Union is Strength: Free State Convention!” Kansas Free State Print, 1855

This announcement urged those who opposed slavery to unite to make Kansas a free state. It warned that pro-slavery forces in Kansas were already “fully and effectually organized.” Each side proceeded to elect its own territorial government, but Congress refused to recognize either one. Kansas finally entered the Union in 1861 as a free state.

Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

“Union is Strength: Free State Convention!” Kansas Free State Print, 1855

Bleeding Kansas

The issue of slavery became more volatile as the nation expanded to western territories during the 19th century. In 1854 Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, repealing the Missouri Compromise, which had set a boundary between free and slave territories. The act supported popular sovereignty by allowing residents of new territories to decide whether to permit or prohibit slavery. The result was bloody conflict as pro- and anti-slavery forces flocked to Kansas to determine its future.