Singleton, Benjamin

Singleton, Benjamin, c. 1809–c. 1900, African-American leader of post–Civil War black resettlement in the West, b. Davidson co. (now coextensive with Nashville), Tenn. He escaped slavery in 1846, traveling to Canada and then to Detroit, where he worked as a carpenter and ran a boardinghouse, often sheltering runaway slaves. Returning to Union-occupied Nashville in 1862, he again worked as a carpenter. In 1874 Pap, as he was called by fellow freed slaves, cofounded a real estate company with the Rev. Columbus M. Johnson to help blacks acquire land locally. Met with extreme resistance by whites, they advocated a Black Exodus to the West and in 1877 led a group of black settlers to Cherokee co., Kans., in a failed attempt to start a colony. Undeterred, they acquired land near Dunlap, Kans., under the Homestead Act and established the Dunlap Colony. In 1878–79 the first black settlers left Tennessee for the colony, which eventually attracted more than 2,000. A second wave of some 15,000 arrived in Kansas in 1879–80. More than 50,000 African Americans, known as the Exodusters, eventually left the Deep South for Kansas, Missouri, and other western states. Singleton continued to advocate for African American economic opportunity, eventually calling for relocation to Africa.

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