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Fri, 02.28.1879

“The Exodus of 1879”, a story

*On this date in 1879, an exodus from slavery after Reconstruction began in earnest. More than 900 Black families from Mississippi reached St. Louis, en route to Kansas, the North and the West.

Some Black migrants sought "conductors" to make travel arrangements for them. These conductors (most of them white scallawags) would often ask for money in advance and not show up at the appointed departure time, leaving Blacks stranded at docks and train stations. During this Black migration yellow fever ravaged many river towns in Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Because many of the Black migrants who stopped over in these towns coming by steamboat, train, or horseback were sick, unwashed, and poverty-stricken, it was assumed by city officials that they must be potential disease carriers. This caused great alarm in such cities as St. Louis, which imposed unnecessary quarantine measures to discourage future Black migrants.

Reference:
Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History
Volume 1, ISBN #0-02-897345-3
Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, Cornel West

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