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The birth of "Pap" Singleton in 1809 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black abolitionist who helped lead hundreds of Blacks out of the South and into the West, specifically to Kansas, during Reconstruction.
Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, born in Nashville, TN, was sold into slavery several times. He always managed to escape, and he eventually settled in Detroit, returning to Tennessee after the American Civil War. In the late 1860s, Singleton tried to help Blacks buy farmland in his home state. That failed when white owners would not sell at reasonable prices.
Soon Singleton began to encourage Blacks in Tennessee to move to Kansas, where with his partner, Columbus Johnson, he had found a location for a Black community. He helped orchestrate this because of his vision for a community in which Blacks owned their own land.
Singleton printed up posters urging people to come to his colony. Many Blacks responded, and tried to leave the South. Only about 50,000 actually completed the trip, because white residents patrolling river and land routes prevented hundreds of others from leaving. Those who made the trip west were called "The Exodusters.”
In 1881, Singleton began a new effort, organizing a party called the United Colored Links. This party was affiliated with the white workers' Greenback Party. The Links was founded to help Blacks acquire their own factories and industries. Lack of capital in the Black community ended the United Colored Links' existence.
In 1883, Singleton founded the Chief League, a group that encouraged Blacks to immigrate to the island of Cyprus. This did not get much support and eventually failed. In 1885, Singleton tried again, this time founding the Trans-Atlantic Society to help Blacks move back for Africa.
By the time this last attempt failed in 1887, Singleton was in poor health. He died in Kansas City, MO on February 17, 1900.
Kansas State Historical Society
6425 SW Sixth Avenue
Topeka, KS 66615-1099