Kansas-Nebraska Act

Tuesday, May 30, 1854

Political map delineating the slave states, free states, and open territories, ca. 1856. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

President Franklin Pierce signs the Kansas-Nebraska Act into law, introducing popular sovereignty (which recognizes the right of the territory's settlers to decide if the state would be free or slave), but inflaming national tensions over the expansion of slavery into Western territories of the United States. Despite the fact that Native Americans populate the newly-formed Kansas Territory, white settlers move in steadily.


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