The Johnson County Charter Commission made a request for the county to seriously consider changing the name from Johnson County because Samuel Johnson, the area’s namesake, was a former pro-slavery minister from the mid-1800’s.
Discussion for a meaningful conversation regarding a name change was scheduled to begin this week and has raised some controversy. The Charter Commission is convened each decade to review the county’s home-rule charter.
We find it ironic that in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, mandatory masks/vaccines, schools closed and the economy slowing, the charter commission is discussing an obscure, pro-slavery minister that nobody has ever heard about. How many readers ever gave a thought to who this county was named after?
Slavery and racism are wrong. Period. And while it might be “stylish” to jump on the band wagon, declare your “wokeness” and renounce systemic racism; trying to gain political points by erasing slavery from history won’t do it.
What good does it do to erase someone from history, when few knew he was anyway?
However, there are some of us who still remember when Johnson County painted a mural without one black person on it, as if there had never been an African-American resident. When in fact, Buffalo Soldiers and Exodusters helped settle this area.
There were black farmers, communities and churches.
In fact there wouldn’t be a Johnson County without former slaves who walked barefoot from the South and settled first in Leavenworth, Quindaro and Topeka, migrating thru the area and being promised freedom; the land of milk and honey.
Unfortunately, those promises weren’t kept.
We believe in American history — all history. Don’t rewrite it, include those who participated in it. People need to remember the ugliness of what happened, so they don’t repeat it.
Honor and teach our youth about those people of color who made this area great. Include them in history. For example, what about Corinthian Nutter and Walker School, which predates Topeka’s desegregation case by five years. She should be honored. For too long she has languished in obscurity. Nutter took on the entire county; the entire nation; and won.
Nick Chiles in Shawnee County, longest running black newspaper publisher in the country, who bailed out Carrie Nation and succeeded in a racist society; rather than honoring him, Topeka is considering tearing down his building.
If you’re “woke” and want to make change, those are just two of many projects that would add depth to our state’s history.
Inclusion is key. Look around and find unsung heroes — who walked barefoot from Mississippi, eating grass and sleeping on the ground – yet rose up, built the back bone of this nation and succeeded against all odds.
They are out there. They’re just not recognized.
Give them their due.