New Perspectives on THE WEST
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Message From Sponsor
The People
Empire Upon The Trails
Speck of the Future
Death Runs Riot
The Grandest Enterprise Under God
Fight No More Forever
The Geography of Hope
One Sky Above Us
The Geography of Hope


The Exodusters

Rain Follows the Plow

A Hard Time I Have


The Romance of My Life

The Barrio

I Must Lose Myself Again

Friends of the Indian

Medicine Flower

Hell Without the Heat

Gunpowder Entertainment

Final Vision

THE WEST The Geography of Hope

The Exodusters

The Shores family of Custer County, Nebraska

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.
Benjamin “Pap” Singleton

When the last Federal troops left the South in 1877 and Reconstruction gave way to renewed racial oppression, a former slave named Benjamin “Pap” Singleton began urging blacks to form their own independent communities in the West. Those who followed his advice called themselves “Exodusters,” because they believed the West would prove their promised land.

Bertha Calloway"Kansas seemed like an ideal place for people who were disillusioned with the black codes that had been passed in the South, the meanness of the Ku Klux Klan, the meanness of the sharecroppers who really weren't sharing the way they had agreed, and these are the people who paid five dollars, five bucks to Pap Singleton to come up the river to a new life in Kansas.”
Bertha Calloway

Bill Gwaltney"The West has always been seen as a place of opportunity. And this was certainly as true for people of African descent as for anybody else. Singleton and other leaders weren't necessarily doing it for purely altruistic reasons. Like a lot of great westerners they were speculators in land and hoped to make their fortunes. But they did have a vision of a place where people of color could breathe free..."
Bill Gwaltney

Waiting for a boat to KansasSoon these early Exodusters’ hopeful letters home were being read aloud in black churches across the South, and in the spring of 1879, word spread that the Federal government had set all of Kansas aside for former slaves. The rumor was false, but it sparked a genuine Exodus that brought more than 15,000 African Americans into Kansas within the next year.

When I landed on the soil [of Kansas] I looked on the ground and I says this is free ground. Then I looked on the heavens and I says them is free and beautiful heavens. Then I looked within my heart and I says to myself, I wonder why I was never free before?
John Solomon Lewis

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