Statehood film to premiere at KCKCC
A film that has its premiere tonight at Kansas City Kansas Community College explores the roots of Kansas’ statehood that took hold here in Wyandotte County.
During the Wyandotte Convention of 1859, the main topic on the table was drawing up a constitution and determining whether it would identify Kansas, which was at that time just a territory, as a free state or a slave state.
On the final day of the convention, July 29, 1859, a constitution was adopted that would lead to Kansas entering the Union two years later as a free state. It is this final day of the convention that will be depicted in “The Wyandotte Convention 1859: How the Kansas Constitution Led to a Free State,” a short film sponsored by both the Wyandotte County Historical Society and KCKCC.
Murrel Bland, a Kansas City, Kan., publisher, wrote the script, helped to produce the film and serves on the board of the Wyandotte County Historical Society. He said the research for the film began in 2009, and it was his goal to have the film completed that year to honor Wyandotte County’s 150th birthday. But the two-year delay was actually a blessing in disguise, he said.
“We decided, well, since the Constitution didn’t really go into effect until Jan. 29, 1861, we’ll have the premiere of the video that we made at that time, and just tie it into the celebration of Kansas’ 150th birthday,” Bland said.
The film portrays interviews with delegates who attended the Wyandotte Convention. Playing the interviewer will be Joe Vaughan, also a member of the Wyandotte County Historical Society board; playing the delegates will be students from KCKCC. Jake Barren, who is from Bonner Springs, will portray convention chairman James Winchell, and Mike Walker, also from Bonner Springs, will portray John Ingalls, who became a U.S. Senator after the convention. Matthew Marshall will portray John Welborn, of Wyandotte County.
Also included will be a performance from Diane Eickhoff, who portrays Clarina Nichols, a newspaper reporter and lobbyist who was one of the few women at the convention. Bland said Nichols’ presence at the convention had an impact on the adopted constitution.
“ (The constitution) provided more rights for women than any other constitution in the United States,” Bland said. “It was a pretty radical document … for its time. I mean, women didn’t have any rights at all, (but with the Kansas Constitution) they had the rights to participate in school elections and run for school board and vote for school board members. They also had property rights in divorce proceedings.”
Bland had help from several history students at KCKCC, who researched the convention itself and the events of the Bleeding Kansas years.
“ It was really exciting to see history come alive,” Bland said of the process of writing the script and putting the film together with the students.
After the premiere, Bland said his plans for the video are for it to be shown in history classes, at civic group meetings or anywhere there are people who have an interest in learning more about an important historical event of a century and a half ago that still has an impact on Kansas.
“But the main reason we did it was just to mark the anniversary (of Kansas) with something that history students or anybody else who has an appreciation of where we came from could learn from it, and that’s really what history is all about,” Bland said. “So if we have an appreciation and an interest in that, why then maybe that helps us in some of the decisions in what we do today.”
“How the Kansas Constitution Led to a Free State” will be shown at 7 p.m. today, Jan. 27, in the Performing Arts Center on the Kansas City Kansas Community College campus, 7250 State Ave. Tickets for the general public are $10. KCKCC students, faculty and staff get in free.