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The Exodusters

Rutherford Hayes

The Exodusters: Rutherford Hayes was the 19th American President who served in office from March 4, 1877 to March 4, 1881. One of the important events during his presidency was the mass  migration of the Exodusters from the southern states to Kansas.

Definition and Summary of the The Exodusters
Summary and definition:
The Exodusters was the name given to thousands of African Americans, from the southern states along the Mississippi River, who migrated to Kansas. The mass migration was organized in 1879 by Benjamin "Pap" Singleton a former slave.

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
Fast, fun facts about the Exodusters for kids. Answers to common questions about the mass migration:

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.

Why did the Exodusters move to Kansas? Kansas was associated with freedom because of the Anti-slavery activists during the Bleeding Kansas era and the fame of John Brown.

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
There were many reasons for the mass migration of the Exodusters. After the Civil War (1861-1865) the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery. But the lives of the black freedman did not improve.  Living and working conditions were appalling.  Racial discrimination and the system of Black Segregation was instigated throughout the Southern States. The ex-slaves were denied their Civil Rights and subjected to abuse and hardships including the
Black Codes were passed in 1865/66 to restrict the ex-slaves new found freedom. The Sharecropping system that resulted in constant debt and poverty for the black farmers.

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
Interesting facts about the Exodusters are detailed below. The history of Exodusters is told in a factual sequence consisting of a series of short facts providing a simple method of relating the history and events of the Exodusters.

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."

US American History
1866-1881: Reconstruction Era

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