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The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
Jim Crow Stories
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Jim Crow Stories

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Benjamin Pap Singleton (1809 - 1892)
Benjamin Pap Singleton Benjamin "Pap" Singleton was one of the leaders of what was called the "Great Exodus," a migration of tens of thousands of African Americans, called "Exodusters," out of the South into Kansas in the late 1870s. He was born into slavery and escaped several times to Nashville before settling in Canada for several years. (In Canada, he ran a boardinghouse where other fugitive slaves stayed.) When Reconstruction began after the Civil War, Singleton returned to Tennessee, where he worked as a carpenter and a coffin maker.
Pity for my race caused me to work for them.

Making coffins for many black victims of white violence, he came to the conclusion that there was no place for blacks in the South, and they should migrate. He had no faith that the democratic process would ever be extended to blacks; therefore, he felt, they should live separately from whites. In the 1870s, he journeyed to Kansas to see if his people could find land there. "We needed land for our children," he later told a Congressional committee. "That caused my heart to grieve and sorrow ... Pity for my race caused me to work for them ... Confidence is perished and faded away. We are going to leave the South."

He began to publicly speak out in favor of migration in the 1870s. He traveled to South Kansas around 1876 and found land that was suitable for establishing a community. In 1878, his association regularly transported black people to Kansas, where he incorporated the Singleton Colony in Morris County. When Reconstruction ended in 1877, and the South was once again in the hands of former slaveowners, some 40,000 Exodusters left the South. Singleton believed he was carrying out God's plan for his people. Although many thousands of blacks migrated to Kansas on their own, or were inspired by other leaders, Singleton took credit for the migration in it's entirety, stating, "I am the cause of the whole Kansas migration."
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Singleton's efforts certainly inspired the founding of other colonies, including Nicodemus, the most famous black community in Kansas. In 1885, he founded the United Trans-Atlantic Society and advocated for the emigration of African Americans from the United States. Singleton's colonies survived and prospered for a while, but declined by the early twentieth century. Most of those who left Southern states for Kansas either failed to make it to Kansas or returned to the South.

--Richard Wormser
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See some of the towns that blacks established as a refuge from racial violence and to gain economic independence. -- Major Black Towns
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