Black Nationalism and Independence Movements
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
In the years following the Civil War, many newly freed African Americans began to form separatist communities or Black Towns as a way to avoid the oppressions of the majority white society. A main destination for many African Americans was Kansas, in large part aided and encouraged by the black nationalist and former slave Benjamin "Pap" Singleton. In the 1870s hundreds of black families settled in Pap's colonies. Singleton founded Nicodemus, Kansas, one of the first and most successful Black Towns in 1878 and by 1879 it had almost 700 residents. Many of Nicodemus's inhabitants were Exodusters, nicknamed thus for their participation in the 1879 Kansas Fever Exodus. The town's rapid growth was sharply curtailed when the town was bypassed by the railroad in 1888 and the residents slowly relocated to more prosperous towns. This photograph shows an early homestead in Nicodemus, Kansas. Pap Singleton is third from the left.