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Kansas Memory Blog

Benjamin Singleton's scrapbook

Posted by Michael Church (Director of State Archives) on Mar 20, 2009

The mass migration of African Americans from southern states to Kansas at the end of Reconstruction (1877) is commonly known as the Exoduster movement. To many migrants, promoter and organizer Benjamin “Pap” Singleton [1809-1892], of Tennessee, fathered the migration. On March 26, 1889, Singleton donated his scrapbook on the movement to the Kansas Historical Society (KSHS). At that time Singleton was living in Kansas City, Missouri. While this book has been called the “Singleton scrapbook” for more than a century, in its current form the book is not entirely of Singleton’s making. This post will explain why. The complete Singleton scrapbook is now available on Kansas Memory.

According to KSHS accession records, the scrapbook contained fifty-nine pages and was described as the “scrapbook of Benjamin Singleton, the originator of the Negro exodus to Kansas, containing much information relative to the immigration, 1878- .”  In 1950, KSHS microfilmed the scrapbook to ensure its preservation and improve access to it. Sometime between 1889 and 1950, additional materials were added to the scrapbook and the whole was given a new binding. Most of the additional materials did not come from Singleton. Accession numbers written on items at the time of their acquisition provide clues to the origins of these additional items. Eight items included as part of the scrapbook today were donated prior to 1889 by other donors (not Singleton). One additional item came from Singleton earlier in 1883. An acquisitions calendar follows:

1. 1879, April 3. Alonzo De Frantz (also De France) donates seven circulars of the Tennessee Real Estate & Homestead Association. One item from this collection was later included as an insert in the Singleton scrapbook.





The 1880 U. S. census shows that De Frantz was a thirty-five year old mulatto born in Mississippi with a mother from Ohio and a father from France. He was a barber in Topeka with a wife and three children.

2. 1880, March 24. Frank Root donates seventy-eight miscellaneous circulars and handbills. Five items from this collection were later included as inserts in the Singleton scrapbook. 






Frank A. Root was a Kansas newspaper publisher and historian. In 1880 he was living in Topeka. A forty-two year old white, Root was born in New York and lived with a wife and five children. Among the newspapers Root published were the Atchison Daily Free Press, Waterville Telegraph, Seneca Courier, Holton Express, Kansas Farmer, and North Topeka Times.


3. 1880, March 30. Alonzo De Frantz again donates four Tennessee emigration circulars. Two of these circulars were later included as inserts in the Singleton scrapbook. 


4. 1883, July 21. Benjamin Singleton donates two posters advertising a celebration of his seventy-fourth birthday in Hartzell Park, Topeka. One poster was later included in the Singleton scrapbook. Part of that item appears to be missing. 






5. 1889, March 26. Singleton donates his original scrapbook.

For more information on Benjamin Singleton see Exoduster Flier. Additional materials on the Exoduster movement are available on Kansas Memory by selecting the category People -- African Americans -- Exodusters.  



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