Martin Luther King Day Lecture

Martin Luther King Day Lecture to Focus on Racism in Atchison’s History

Monday, January 13, 2020

By Reynolds - "Reynold's Political Map of the United States - 1856"

In observance of Martin Luther King Day, Benedictine College will host a lecture focusing on racial tension in Atchison’s history and how race relations have evolved in the City of Atchison, the State of Kansas, and the United States since the Civil War. Dr. Josh Wolf, assistant professor of history at the college, will offer a presentation on “Ghosts of Atchison: The Lynching of George Johnson” at 7:00 p.m. in O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium on Monday, January 20.  The event is free and open to the public.

According to Dr. Wolf, George Johnson was dragged from his jail cell by an angry Atchison mob in January of 1870. He was tied to the back of a horse while townsfolk beat him and pelted him with rocks. He was then hanged from the Atchison Railroad Bridge.

While visitors to Atchison are told stories of the tragic lynching of “Lucy,” a black woman who had the courage to love a white man and paid for her love with her life, they never hear the story of Johnson’s murder.  Dr. Wolf's research uses the lynching of George Johnson to examine the racial tensions of Atchison, Kansas. The town is named for David Atchison – a Missouri Senator and a violent, unapologetic racist who led multiple border raids during Bleeding Kansas but is generally referred to as the “One-Day President” without mention of his ideology.

Dr. Wolf will also touch on the massacre at Poison Springs, Arkansas, during the Civil War.  That slaughter counted one hundred Atchison natives among its victims, most of them from the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry who were fighting to preserve the Union and free their brethren. There is no plaque or monument or any kind of memorial to the men of Atchison who died at Poison Springs.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named in the Top 10 in the Midwest of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.