REPORT: Kansas should look to Quindaro’s example of a multiracial democracy

New ACLU of Kansas report “Same Water Comin’ Round” examines voting rights, criminal justice reform and more through the prism of the historic settlement

Friday, August 11, 2023
CONTACT: Esmie Tseng, Communications Director, ACLU of Kansas, [email protected]

KANSAS CITY, KAN. – While Quindaro has received attention as a historic site, a new report finds that the name also represents a vision for the Free State’s future. The ACLU of Kansas, in an attempt to better understand the root causes of our state’s economic inequality, disproportionate incarceration rates, frequent attacks on democracy, and more, has produced a new report that forces a confrontation with our past and hopes to propel the state and possibly the nation, toward the true multi-racial democracy that Quindaro was.

“Quindaro provides a framework for us to better understand who we are as Kansans now and who we can aspire to be,” said ACLU of Kansas Executive Director, Dr. Micah Kubic. “Now more than ever, our past should be our prologue. Democracy must work for everyone, and Quindaro began as what much of the United States has hoped this nation could be – a true multi-racial democracy. Where Quindaro started as a haven for people escaping bondage, even today, it remains a place where immigrants have sought refuge, freedom, and a new life.”

The report discusses the affiliate’s campaign issues of voting rights and criminal justice reform, as well as gender equality, public health, and I-635’s long-lasting destruction of the Quindaro neighborhood, through a historical lens.

The nearly year-long project was inspired in part by The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, which has helped explain how slavery and anti-Blackness shaped the culture from its politics, to citizenship, to the economy, to music and media.  1619 interrogated much of white America’s preference for nostalgia over history.

“Kansas has served as America’s social fault line, from the Civil War, to Prohibition, to Civil Rights, to the Summer of Mercy abortion protests,” said Kubic. “Similarly, Quindaro’s rise and fall reflects the Free State’s aspirations and where it still falls short when it comes to building a true multi-racial democracy that works for all of us.”

An unlikely though distinctly American, multi-racial group of people founded the settlement – white Massachusetts abolitionists, Black freedmen and freedwomen, and indigenous Wyandot Indians founded the town of Quindaro, named literally for “a bundle of sticks,” but figuratively representing “strength in unity.” Once embodying our state’s identity, the Quindaro neighborhood remains one of the most diverse areas of the state, and the town was at one point home to America’s western-most historically Black college and university.

The report’s title comes from a line from “The Mississippi River Empties Into the Gulf,” a poem by the late and renowned American poet Lucille Clifton. The poem describes the great circulation of the earth’s body in which “the past is always flowing. Every water is the same water comin’ round.”

The Same Water Comin' Round is available here.

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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at