The newspapers called it ďan Exodus" comparing it to the Hebrews in the Bible who escaped from Egyptian bondage.
The Homestead Act had been passed to encourage Westward expansion in the United States and the state of Kansas was open for settlement. The mass migration was undertaken to escape racial discrimination and segregation practices in the south and intimidation by white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
Fast Facts about the Exodusters for kids
Why did the Exodusters move west? To claim and settle lands as provided by the Homestead Act and escape racial segregation and intimidation in the South.
How many Exodusters were there? The number of Exodusters who migrated to Kansas exceeded 30,000
Where did the Exodusters settle? The first migrants settled in "Singleton's Colony" and Dunlap Colony in Kansas
Where did the Exodusters come from? All the southern states, particularly Mississippi and Louisiana that bordered the Mississippi River
Exodusters for kids: Reasons for the Exodus
The terror tactics and acts of violence perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan to maintain racial segregation in the South escalated. Then, as if things were not bad enough, in 1880 the infamous Jim Crow Laws of the South legalized segregation. The number of Lynchings began to escalate. Black Americans were deprived of the right to vote by a poll tax of $2 and a literacy test which most failed to pass. These are many of the reasons for the mass migration to Kansas. During the 1880s, black migrants purchased more than 20,000 acres of land in Kansas.
Facts about the Exodusters for kids
Benjamin "Pap" Singleton believed that like a "Black Moses" he would lead his people to the promised land (Kansas). Henry Adams from Louisiana also promoted the idea.
Benjamin "Pap" Singleton promoted black colonization and later organized a political group in Kansas called the 'United Colored Links'
Singleton advertised on posters, broadsides and handbills that called "Sunny Kansas, one of the finest countries for a poor man in the world". His advertisements helped thousands of Exodusters migrate and "conductors" began leading African American families to Kansas. A clear reference to the Underground Railroad which had once helped slaves escape from the bondage of slavery.
A famous Benjamin "Pap" Singleton quote is, "What's going to be a hundred years from now ain't much account to us...The whites has the lands and the sense, an' the blacks has nothin' but their freedom, an' it's jest like a dream to them."
The first 300 African Americans followed Singleton to Kansas. They were well prepared for the journey and had resources to help them make their new lives. However the vast number of Exodusters were ill-prepared and had no money.
The 'Exodus' was also influenced by the outcome of 1878 Louisiana state elections in which the Democratic Party made major gains. Black Louisianans, largely Republican supporters, realized things would only get worse and it was time to leave their homes for Kansas
The floodgate opened, and thousands undertook the journey to Kansas by wagon, train and steamboat eager to take the opportunity to buy cheap land and escape oppression in the south
Relief agencies, such as the Kansas Freedman's Relief Association provided some aid but many people were destitute.
Not all black leaders agreed with Exodus. Frederick Douglass attempted to dissuade black people from fleeing the South.
There was violent opposition from whites to the mass migration who were desperate not to lose their labor force. They used intimidation tactics and violence to prevent the black population from leaving.
Despite the many problems, black migrants managed to purchase more than 20,000 acres of land in Kansas during the 1880's.
The 'United Colored Links', led by its president Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, held an 1881 convention in Topeka, Kansas calling for unity and work to build industries for the next generation
Benjamin Singleton died in 1900 and was accorded the title "Father of the Exodus."
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