The First Colored Troops of Kansas
In the spring of 2011, Lawrence-based quilt artist Marla Jackson worked with Central Junior High School ninth-graders in Michel Loomis’s English class to produce a collaborative quilt on the topic of the first U.S. Colored Troops of Kansas. The quilt that they created portrays a specific group of soldiers from the first infantry of African American troops. The quilt is called Douglass’ Kansas Color Light Artillery Battery (Union) Soldiers, and it is the centerpiece of this exhibition. Twenty-one students participated and helped to make the quilt under Jackson’s guidance. The exhibition will include additional quilts by Jackson that evoke related themes.
In 1862, on the order of General James H. Lane, Kansas military leaders recruited a regiment of African American soldiers from within the state, an action that preceded the Union’s overall recruitment of black soldiers. The response from Kansas was swift and substantial. Despite some opposition, 500 African American volunteers were mustered into service in January, 1863; indeed, they fought an October battle at Island Mound, Missouri, even before they were officially sworn in. The regiment was noteworthy in becoming the first all-black unit to fight alongside American Indian and white troops, foreshadowing military actions in the future.
Marla Jackson is a nationally recognized quilt artist and teacher. Her story-quilts have been exhibited nationally, including at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. She is an active participant in the Women of Color Quilters Network. Her workshops with children such as those at Central Junior High School have been awarded external funding through grants she has earned. Michel Loomis is an award-winning teacher and longtime faculty member at Central Junior High School in Lawrence.