At the end of the Reconstruction era, federal protection was withdrawn for Southern African Americans civil and political liberties. In essence this was handing over power to the same forces that had held African Americans in slavery prior to the Civil War. Post-Reconstruction African Americans were subjected to disenfranchisement, organized violence, and limited economic opportunities. Consequently, many African Americans felt that their best chances for achieving economic and personal security lay in separating themselves from the economic and social conditions of the post-Reconstruction South. Some, like Robert Charles, even considered emigrating to Liberia (although few actually did so).
Leaders such as Isaiah Montgomery and Benjamin "Pap" Singleton offered people the chance to organize their own communities, own their land, and -- as Montgomery put it -- "run for Sheriff, not run from the Sheriff." Isaiah Montgomery founded the African American community of Mound Bayou, carved out of the inhospitable environment of the Mississippi Delta. Benjamin "Pap" Singleton encouraged thousands of African Americans to emigrate to Kansas, the land of the abolitionist John Brown.
While Frederick Douglass urged Southern blacks to stay engaged in the fight for their political and civil rights rather than withdraw into what he saw as political and economic isolation, for many African Americans these all-black communities gave them the opportunity to build lives for their families free from the violence and daily indignities of the Jim Crow South.
This lesson introduces students to these all-black communities established as a response to the imposition of Jim Crow following Reconstruction.
Five to six class periods
African American History, Jim Crow, Planned Communities
Students will be able to:
- Identify some of the motivations for the creation of separate black communities such as Mound Bayou and the Kansas settlements.
- Understand the steps involved in building these movements.
- Enhance understanding and draw conclusions from the study of primary documents.
- Learn how the Kansas exodus and the settlement of Mound Bayou fit into the overall chronology of the Jim Crow years.
Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning
United States History Standard and Benchmarks
Historical Understanding Standard and Benchmarks
This lesson was prepared by: Thomas Thurston