African Americans in the 1870's   


Exodusters- An Overview

                  The Exodusters were freed African Americans from the south. They lived in very poor conditions. Many of these Exodusters were sharecroppers who where cheated out of their crops and suffered poverty because they didn't make enough profit and had great debt. This was only a small fraction of why they left. They African  Americans left in spite of fear. Blacks were pushed down for taking political positions and attempting to vote, some were even killed, even though they were granted these freedoms through the Fifteenth Amendment. These things drove them out of the south, now all they had to do was find a place to go. 


                  Earlier, some African Americans had traveled the long distance to Kansas and founded Nicodemus, a small town.  Many Africans still living in the deep south, had heard that Kansas was trying to attract settlers. Many considered the possibilities, plenty of land and the guarantee of bountiful crops. So many sold the few belongings that they owned at cheap prices, and set off on the long journey to Kansas. The boat ride did not supply food or bedding, so they were forced to supply them themselves. Many Exodusters didn't have enough money to travel the full distance by boat, so they were only taken half of the way and dropped off, forced to find any possible way of getting there, in most cases, walking. 


                   After a long complicated journey to Kansas, the exodusters arrived looking for equipment to start and a home to live in. They started schools, churches, and other small businesses they could start with the little money they had. There were many donations. Thirteen thousand dollars were donated form the English Quakers, along with clothing, food, spoons, needles and many blankets for the mass of African Americans that had arrived. Some were able to produced bunches of corn and share with friends and relatives that arrived later. Few asked for assistance from the State because they loved the feeling of freedom. Nicodemus turned out to be a very profitable town because of the amount of African American contributors in the town. 


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



Waiting for a boat to Kansas

"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



The Impact of the Exodusters


                     Many towns sprang up in Kansas, like Nicodemus. But also like Nicodemus these towns, though well developed, began to stop attracting settlers because there wasn't a railroad nearby. The exodusters needed a railroad to continue their success, so they moved to other places with a more convenient location. These once crammed towns became gExodusters heading westhost towns of the west, because all of their settlers moved to Nebraska because of their Homestead Act. They increased the growth of the west and they successfully obtained a large population due to their contribution. Also because of this the population was more diverse due to them 

The Exodusters' Legacy

                      The exodusters did many important things. They paved the way for many future African Americans who were afraid of leaving their slavery driven lives. They showed how people of different decent could live the life they had always dreamt of and could do it successfully. "Exodus" means a mass departure or emigration, and they were called that because that what they did, they emigrated from the south to the west in large masses.



and some other sites you might want to visit!!

De Angelis, Gina. The Black Cowboys. Chelsea House Publishers, 1998

Katz, William Loren. Black Women of The Old West. New York : Ethrac Publications, Inc, 1995

Helmcamp, Caroline. "The Exodusters" [On-line] c2001: http://www.umsl.edu/~mga/exodust.htm 





"New Perspectives on the West" [On-line] c2001 : http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/program/episodes/seven/theexodust.htm Accessed : January 30, 2002.