The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854


The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854

Edited by John R. Wunder and Joann M. Ross

Law in the American West Series

236 pages
4 maps


July 2008


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2008


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854 turns upside down the traditional way of thinking about one of the most important laws ever passed in American history. The act that created Nebraska and Kansas also, in effect, abolished the Missouri Compromise, which had prohibited slavery in the region since 1820. This bow to local control outraged the nation and led to vicious confrontations, including Kansas’s subsequent mini-civil war. The essays in this volume shift the focus from the violent and influential reaction of “Bleeding Kansas” to the role that Nebraska played in this decisive moment.
Essays from both established and new scholars examine the historical context and significance of this statute. They treat American political culture of the 1850s; American territorial history; the roles of Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, and Frederick Douglass in the creation and implementation of the law; the reactions of African Americans to the act; and the comparative impact on Nebraskans and Kansans. At the 150th anniversary of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, as it came to be known, these scholars reexamine the political, social, and personal contexts of this act and its effect on the course of American history.

Author Bio

John R. Wunder is a professor of history and journalism at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He is the author of numerous books, including “Retained by the People”: A History of American Indians and the Bill of Rights, and the coauthor of Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience.
Joann M. Ross has a JD from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She is currently a history instructor at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts and is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Contributors include: Nicole Etcheson, Tekla Ali Johnson, Mark E. Neely Jr., Phillip S. Paludan, James A. Rawley, Brenden Rensink, Joann M. Ross, Walter C. Rucker, and John R. Wunder.


"This is a well-balanced book with innovative essays by outstanding scholars. It might seem specialized, but the essays, deeply researched as they are, are eminently readable. And there is no question about the enormous importance of the topic. Of all the candidates for the moment at which the United States began the steep slide toward Civil War, the Kansas-Nebraska debate of 1854 ranks high."—Craig Miner, Civil War Book Review

"The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854 offers a unique perspective on both the national impact of the bill and the history of the Great Plains."—Gary L. Cheatham, Great Plains Quarterly

Table of Contents

1. "An Eclipse of the Sun": The Kansas-Nebraska Act in Historical Perspective
     John R. Wunder and Joann M. Ross (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
2. The Kansas-Nebraska Act in American Political Culture: The Road to Bladensburg and the Appeal of the Independent Democrats
     Mark E. Neely, Jr. (Pennsylvania State University)
3. Nebraska and Kansas Territories in American Legal Culture: Territorial Statutory Context
     Brenden Rensink (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
4. Stephen A. Douglas and the Kansas Act
     James A. Rawley (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
5. Lincoln's Firebell: The Kansas-Nebraska Act
     Phillip S. Paludan (University of Illinois, Springfield)
6. Frederick Douglass and the Kansas-Nebraska Act: From Reformer to Revolutionary
     Tekla Ali Johnson (North Carolina A&T University)
7. Unpopular Sovereignty: African-American Resistance and Reactions to the Kansas-Nebraska Act
     Walter C. Ruker (Ohio State University)
8. Where Popular Sovereignty Worked: Nebraska Territory and the Kansas-Nebraska Act
     Nicole Etcheson (Ball State University)

Also of Interest