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People - Notable Kansans - Singleton, Benjamin, 1809-1900

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Benjamin "Pap" Singleton

Benjamin "Pap" Singleton
Date: 1880
Benjamin "Pap" Singleton was born a slave in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1809. Singleton escaped to Canada to gain his freedom, returning to Tennessee after the end of the Civil War. Seeking a better life for himself and for his fellow emancipated African Americans, he began his efforts to buy land in Tennessee for blacks to farm. His plan failed due to unfair prices set by white landowners. Singleton then looked to Kansas as a potential site for black emigration, organizing the Tennessee Real Estate and Homestead Association with his business partner, Columbus Johnson. This company founded the Dunlap Colony in Morris County and a short-lived settlement in Cherokee County. Although his company did not create many successful colonies, through his advertisements he did help thousands of Exodusters relocate to Kansas, leading to his name as "Father of the Exodus." Singleton also organized a political group called the United Colored Links and later in life he promoted black colonization.


Benjamin "Pap" Singleton

Benjamin "Pap" Singleton
Date: Between 1870 and 1889
Benjamin "Pap" Singleton was born a slave in 1809, but after 37 years of bondage he escaped to freedom. He made Detroit his home and operated a secret boardinghouse for other escaped slaves. Following emancipation, Singleton returned to his native Tennessee. Because Kansas was famous for John Brown's efforts and its struggle against slavery, Singleton considered the state a new Canaan. Singleton traveled through the South organizing parties to colonize in Kansas. In 1873, nearly 300 Blacks followed him to Cherokee County and founded Singleton's Colony, while others settled in Wyandotte, Topeka's Tennessee Town, and in Dunlap Colony in Morris County. Singleton advocated the organized colonization of African Americans in communities like Nicodemus, first settled in 1877. Between 1879 and 1881, however, the organized movement gave way to an "Exodus" in which tens of thousands of oppressed and impoverished Southern Blacks fled to Kansas and other Northern states.


Benjamin "Pap" Singleton and S. A. McClure

Benjamin "Pap" Singleton and S. A. McClure
Date: 1876
This photograph depicts a steamboat containing freed people in Nashville, Tennessee, with Benjamin "Pap" Singleton and S. A. McClure superimposed in the foreground. Singleton, known as the "Father of the Exodus" for the Exoduster Movement in 1879, organized the Tennessee Real Estate and Homestead Association to facilitate black emigration from the South. His town company founded the Dunlap Colony in Morris County, and a short-lived settlement in Cherokee County, Kansas. His widespread use of advertisements encouraged thousands of former slaves to emigrate to Kansas. McClure was one of his associates and advocate for emigration.


Benjamin "Pap" Singleton scrapbook

Benjamin "Pap" Singleton scrapbook
Creator: Singleton, Benjamin, 1809-1892
Date: 1877-1886
Benjamin "Pap" Singleton compiled this scrapbook to document the immigration of many Southern blacks to Kansas during the 1870s and 1880s. Singleton is considered the father of the Negro Exodus, or Exoduster movement. The book contains newspaper clippings, handbills, circulars, and posters promoting the immigration and commemorating it. The marginal notes are from an unknown source sometime after 1950. Some notes give directions to continuing sections. The order and numbering of pages and inserts follows the 1950 KSHS microfilm publication. Some renumbering of pages had occurred since that time. Some page numbers on the original may not reflect the present page order.


Birthday programs for Benjamin "Pap" Singleton

Birthday programs for Benjamin "Pap" Singleton
Date: August 1882-August 1883
Here are two announcements for the programs held on Benjamin "Pap" Singleton's birthday. For his 73rd birthday in 1882, the city of Topeka hosted a celebration at Hartzell Park with music, prayer, and speeches. For his 74th birthday in 1883, the city again hosted a celebration which included barbeque, skating, boating, and croquet.


Certificate of Incorporation for the Singleton colony

Certificate of Incorporation for the Singleton colony
Creator: Singleton Town Company
Date: June 24, 1879
This certificate of incorporation laid out the details of the Singleton Colony's town company, including its purpose, term of duration, and number of directors. The document was signed by Benjamin Singleton, William Sizemore, A. D. DeFrantz, Fuel Williamson, George Wade, George Moon, John Elliott, Austin Dozier, John Davis, William Shrout, and John Wade. It was also notarized by Thomas Archer and certified by James Smith, Kansas Secretary of State.


Columbus Johnson

Columbus Johnson
Date: 1889
This is a photograph of Columbus Johnson, who lived in Dunlap, Kansas. He was born in Maryland, the child of a free man and a slave woman who was purchasing her freedom. His mother died when lightning struck a tree, and Columbus was taken to Tennessee where he was auctioned. Johnson learned several trades including harness making and carpentry. He could read and write and frequently read newspapers. While employed at the Braham Mill, he met and married Josephine, a 13 year old slave girl. Columbus Johnson served in the Civil War, and when he was mustered out, he returned to Gallatine, Tennessee. In 1869, Benjamin Singleton, Columbus Johnson and others organized the Tennessee Real Estate Homestead Association. They learned that homesteads were available in Kansas. Johnson went to Topeka where he was active in the Kansas Colonization project with Pap Singleton, under the auspices of the Freedman's Aid Society. His wife and family joined him in Topeka. In 1884, he moved the family to Dunlap where he was active in the community. In June 1884, Johnson and five white businessmen organized the Farmers Bank of Dunlap. He was a trustee in the St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church and one of the shareholders and organizers of the Dunlap Colored Cemetery Association. Johnson died October 17, 1894.


Dunlap Academy and Mission School, Dunlap, Kansas

Dunlap Academy and Mission School, Dunlap, Kansas
Date: Between 1880 and 1899
This photograph portrays the students and teachers of the African American school in Dunlap, Morris County, Kansas. Dunlap was located in eastern Morris County and was established in May 1878. The colony was founded by Benjamin Singleton and the Tennessee Real Estate and Homestead Association. This was the last colony Singleton founded in Kansas.


Ho for Kansas!

Ho for Kansas!
Creator: Singleton, Benjamin, 1809-1900
Date: March 18, 1878
Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, a leader of the Exodus movement and president of the Tennessee Real Estate and Homestead Association, distributed this pamphlet in Nashville, Tennessee, to encourage emigration to Kansas. Singleton would organize transportation for any African Americans eager to escape the discriminatory black codes being instituted in various parts of the South. Singleton and other emigrants believed that former slaves would be able to lead happier lives in a northern state such as Kansas.


Material relating to Benjamin Singleton

Material relating to Benjamin Singleton
Date: 1874-1883
Materials belonging to Benjamin (Pap) Singleton consisting of business and family correspondence. Included are letters from two daughters living in Tennessee. There is also a letter of recognition from Kansas Governor John St. John written in 1879. This folder also includes the deed for the Dunlap property, incorporation papers for the Edgefield Real Estate Association, the Singleton Colony, and other business records relating to the Dunlap Colony. Minutes of the meeting of the Singleton/Dunlap Colony beginning on pages 46 and 52 include listings of the colonists. The document beginning on page 52 also includes the number of people in the family and the number of acres of land they had. A first person account of why Singleton became involved in colonization begins on page 55.


"Pap" Singleton songster

"Pap" Singleton songster
Creator: Hickman, Hester
Date: 1877
This pamphlet, sold by Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, the "Father of the Exodus," includes the lyrics for two songs advertising black Southerners' emigration to Kansas. The first song, "The Land that Gives Birth to Freedom," alludes to the hardships of life in Tennessee and the promise of a better life in Kansas. The second song, "Extending Our Voices to Heaven," is a farewell message to those left behind. Lyrics for these songs were written by Mrs. Hester Hickman with arrangement by A. D. DeFrantz. The pamphlet was originally included in the Benjamin Singleton scrapbook.


Peace and harmony

Peace and harmony
Creator: Singleton, Benjamin, 1809-1892
Date: Between 1870 and 1890
A short appeal by Benjamin Singleton stating "Let us live together as a Band of Brethren and become united, & stand in the Statutes of honor before this Enlightened people and God." After the Civil War and Reconstruction, Singleton led many southern African American's to Kansas in hopes of a better life.


Report of the minority, in report and testimony of the select committee to Investigate the causes of the removal of the Negroes from the southern states to the northern states, in three parts

Report of the minority, in report and testimony of the select committee to Investigate the causes of the removal of the Negroes from the southern states to the northern states, in three parts
Creator: United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee on Negro Exodus
Date: 1880
This report, written by the minority party of the Senate select committee investigating the Exodus, outlines the minority's conclusions about the reasons for black emigration to the North during the Reconstruction period. This committee, composed of majority and minority parties, had taken testimony from hundreds of people having direct knowledge of the exodus movement. In essence, the minority party concluded that the Northern Republican Party and emigrant aid organizations had not persuaded blacks in the South to emigrate to the North. Instead, the unfavorable condition of life in the South had caused this mass exodus. The minority members were William Windom, a Republican senator from Minnesota, and Henry W. Blair, a Republican senator from New Hampshire.


The Great Negro Exodus

The Great Negro Exodus
Creator: Harpers Weekly
Date: May 17, 1879
This article published in the nationally-renown newspaper Harper's Weekly discusses the black exodus from the South, stating that Kansas seemed to be the objective for many of these emigrants. In particular the article discusses the role of the Tennessee Real Estate and Homestead Association, led by Benjamin "Pap" Singleton.


The land that gives birth to freedom

The land that gives birth to freedom
Date: Between 1878 and 1881
A small leaflet containing hymns and choruses, most likely used by Exodusters leaving the South after Reconstruction, as they moved westward.


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