Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area includes the sites of extraordinary events that forever changed America. In the nineteenth century, the nation was focused on the Missouri-Kansas border, where peoples with different definitions of freedom collided, inciting and fueling a Civil War. The impact of these events is forever woven into the nation’s fabric.

The heritage area focuses on three main themes: Shaping the Frontier, the Missouri-Kansas Border War, and the Enduring Struggles for Freedom. Explore each theme below to learn about the people and places that changed history, not only for Kansas but for the entire nation.

Shaping The Frontier

Back to Top of List

Three original redbrick buildings and a range of emotions remain at Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site, where children of Shawnee, Delaware, and other nations were taught to assimilate from 1839 to 1862. This National Historic Landmark in Fairway traces its timeline as a school, territorial capital, supply point on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails, and Union soldiers’ Civil War encampment.

Wyandotte County Historical Society and Museum in Bonner Springs unearths more early tribal stories, with pottery, tools, arrowheads, and a locally excavated canoe crafted by Native Americans. For a different perspective on frontier life, visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Kansas homesite, Little House on the Prairie Museum, outside Independence. Picture Ma, Pa, and young Laura in the one-room cabin and shop a collection of Wilder’s books.

Missouri-Kansas Border War

Back to Top of List

Learn how Bleeding Kansas got its brutally honest nickname at Civil War-era landmarks. Drive or walk through Marais des Cygnes Massacre State Historic Site near Pleasanton, following how pro-slavery fighters killed five unarmed free-state advocates in 1858. John Brown Museum State Historic Site recounts the actions of the abolitionists who commanded clashes with border ruffians. The park safeguards the Battle of Osawatomie grounds and a cabin (now a museum) where Brown lived and conducted antislavery and Underground Railroad activities.

Be sure to also check out the Territorial Capitol in 1855, the First Territorial Capitol State Historic Site at Fort Riley, which tells a short-lived story. The governor intended this to be a permanent seat, but days after convening, the proslavery legislature voted to move east to be closer to the border’s slavery sympathizers.

Enduring Struggles For Freedom

Back to Top of List

When 13 Topeka parents filed suit against their segregated school system, they triggered a 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. At Topeka’s formerly all-Black Monroe Elementary School, now the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park, poignant displays relive what many Black students faced. View exhibits in former classrooms and a mural across the street that celebrates the case, marking its 70th anniversary in 2024.

Mostly unsung heroes of history, Buffalo Soldiers receive recognition at Leavenworth’s Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum. On display in the former house of a Buffalo Soldier: artifacts from the Black cavalry regiment along with exhibits on other notable African Americans, such as Colin Powell, who was stationed at Fort Leavenworth.

Discover more story-filled destinations in the 2024 Official Kansas Travel Guide.