Irreversible Prejudice and the Loss of Dreams Essay

Irreversible Prejudice and the Loss of Dreams Essay

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In the era of Reconstruction, African Americans were living in a state of limbo, unsure of their place in society. De jure, they were freedmen, but de facto they were still being socially oppressed by white Americans because of their race. Wanting to take advantage of any opportunity to better their lives and increase their financial situations, many African Americans, most of them agricultural workers, started the search for reliable incomes.
One especially enticing opportunity in 1879, put forth by the Kansas state governor, provided southern blacks the chance to settle on readily available farmland in Kansas. With the dream of becoming a yeoman farmer finally in reach, African Americans flocked to Kansas to escape from their dependency upon white Americans for employment, marking the start of the Black Exodus of 1879. Harper’s Weekly published, “few [Exodusters] turned their faces in any other direction” than Kansas because “it ha[d] been more thoroughly advertised than any other.” African Americans looking for a new home turned to Kansas, and “nearly every day there [were] fresh arrivals.”
But even with Kansas Governor John P. St. John, presiding as President of the Kansas Freedmen’s Relief Association of Kansas and promising “to relieve as far as possible, the wants and necessities of destitute freedmen, refugees and immigrants coming into [Kansas],” the Exodusters did not find significant success in establishing stable lives for themselves. Nell I. Painter points out that African Americans did find limited success in Kansas by achieving higher social status than their counterparts in other states and established a successful independent black settlement in Nicodemus, Kansas. However, other social factors prevented them...


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... Kansas Memory.

St. John, John P. Governor John P. St. John to Horatio N. Rust, January 16, 1880, Kansas Historical Society. Kansas Memory.

_____________. “Magnitude of the Black Exodus.” New York Times, August 11, 1879. Proquest Historical Newspapers.

"The Great Negro Exodus." Harper's Weekly, May 17, 1879, 386, Kansas Historical Society.

Worrall, Henry. “Exodusters in Floral Hall, Topeka.” Illustration, Harper’s Weekly, July 5, 1879, 532, E185.1879*8. Newsbank.

William Reynolds v. The Board of Education of the City of Topeka, LXVI Thomas
Emmett Dewey 2 (1903).

Secondary Sources:

Johnson, Daniel M., and Rex R. Campbell. Black Migration in America: A social demographic history. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1981.

Painter, Nell I. Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction. New York: Random House, Inc., 1976.

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