Nicodemus: The last all-Black town in the West

Angela Bates is a fourth-generation descendant of Nicodemus. Though she grew up in California, her roots were too strong to deny. In 1989, she moved to Nicodemus. In 1996, she was successful in getting the town designated as a National Historic Site with the National Park Service.

By

Opinion

March 29, 2024 - 2:56 PM

Re-enactors show what traversing the high plains of western Kansas was like in the 1870s. In February, The Nicodemus Historical Society premiered its documentary, “Ellis Trail to Nicodemus, The End of the Journey to the Promise Land.” Photo by NICK ABT

Wagon wheel impressions still mark the earth of the western Kansas prairie, where, beginning in 1877, Black former slaves journeyed across the plains. Those ruts, a physical reminder of the former slaves’ brave and challenging escape from new post-Reconstruction oppressions in the American South, and their dreams of true independence, self-determination and self-governance.

Angela Bates is a fourth-generation descendant of Nicodemus. Though she grew up in California, her roots were too strong to deny. In 1989, she moved to Nicodemus. In 1996, she was successful in getting the town designated as a National Historic Site with the National Park Service.Courtesy photo

But wagon wheel ruts aren’t the only reminder of that dream; they lead to the small, unincorporated community of Nicodemus, Kansas, the oldest, and last remaining, all Black town in the American West.

Angela Bates is a fourth-generation descendent and historian of the community’s original settlers. Bates has dedicated much of her life to preserving and sharing the story of her hometown, her community and her ancestors.

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