Lawrence’s historic Carnegie Library houses the offices of Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.

In the building’s upstairs galleries, visitors can learn about the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed Kansas Territory settlers the choice to be a slave state or a free state. Migrants from both sides of the issue poured into Kansas to stake a claim for their cause. Called “Bleeding Kansas,” the violent period erupted into a full-blown border war between the “free-staters” and the Missouri “border ruffians.” Known for helping runaway slaves, the city of Lawrence became a flash point as pro-slavers held the city responsible for Union raids into Missouri. On August 21, 1863, William Quantrill and his band of guerrillas took revenge on Lawrence, ravaging denizens, setting fire to buildings, and killing nearly 150 men.

Constructed in 1904, the Carnegie building served as Lawrence’s public library for nearly 75 years. As one of the city’s few unsegregated public facilities during the Jim Crow era, it was regularly visited by the area’s Black residents, including a young Langston Hughes, who began his lifelong love of poetry, literature, and writing on the Carnegie Library’s first floor.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

The Carnegie Library’s Heritage Room and West Gallery are available to view by appointment Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Click here to make an appointment.