"Pap" Singleton's Kansas Colony For Africa-Americans

"Pap" Singleton’s Kansas Colony



Benjamin "Pap" Singleton was born in Tennessee between 1806 and 1809 and was a mulatto Negro (his biological father was white, his mother a slave). According to Singleton (he would have to be the only source), he escaped his American master in 1846 and then fled North. He claimed to have lived in Detroit and even in Canada, though neither can be verified. It is also said that he helped other Negroes escape slavery. However, this also cannot be verified by any independent source. What we do know about Singleton is that he was in Tennessee when the Union army arrived in 1862 (it could very well be [in fact, likely] that Singleton had never left Tennessee and it was the Union army that set him free). Nothing remarkable seems to have occurred in Singleton's long life up until 1874 when, at the ripe old age of 64 (or 67 if he was born in 1806), and without the ability to read or write, he went into business with another Negro, a clergyman by the name of Columbus M. Johnson. Together they formed the Edgefield Real Estate Association.


The stated purpose of Singleton and Johnson's enterprise was to lure Negroes to Kansas, though they were also interested in making a profit (they charged $5.00 a person for their expedition). Singleton’s main desire, however, seemed to be more dedicated to creating an all-Negro colony, where Negroes could own their own land, be free from the American and be self-reliant. As to why Singleton wanted such a thing, he, along with probably most of his people, were apparently frustrated (angered?) by the prevailing attitude among white people after the Civil War ended, which was to require the Negro race, being a free and distinct people, to have separate living arrangements, and require the Negro men to provide for their families as well as for the wants and needs of their people. This prevailing attitude among the white populace, however, was not unusual, nor was it in any way intended to be mean-spirited. That is, a distinct people (distinct racially, linguistically or religiously from another people), the construct of human nature, demonstrated throughout human history, required these distinct human groups to provide for their own group i.e. their own people... within the structure and confines of their own group -- to create self-reliance. Of course, for Negro men, particularly those who were former slaves, becoming leaders and providers for their people, this was a edification process that was going to take some time. (Note: Only American white Christians in all of human history helped another distinct people in their efforts to become self-reliant)


On Sept. 5th, 1877, Singleton's expedition finally left for Kansas with a total of 73 people. They eventually wound up in a place called Dunlap, which was originally part of an Indian reservation that had been seized by the U.S. government and then subsequently given to Singleton and his people as part of the Homestead Act.

Pap Singleton was beginning to realize his dream. Then, in 1879, a fabricated rumor spread across the Deep South that the U.S. government was giving the entire state of Kansas to those of African descent, along with $500 dollars (a mighty princely sum at that time). This false rumor brought thousands and thousands of Negroes pouring into Kansas (some put the number up to 10,000!), almost all possessing nothing more than a few articles of clothing and maybe a few farming tools. Naturally, the settlers did not receive $500 dollars when they arrived. However, it must be emphasized here that they basically still had what the average European man had to forge a new living off Kansas’ raw land.

For those of African descent, the Dunlap colony represented the first real opportunity to make a place in America for their very own; to be truly masters of their own destiny.

Would Singleton’s Dunlap colony survive?

Answer: About two in a half years after Singleton arrived in Dunlap (1880) the Presbyterian Church, compelled by humanitarian desires, came in and took over (some would say rescued) Singleton’s community. One of the first things the church recognized was missing was a place to provide education for the children (i.e. there was no school). However, the short of is, even though the church established a Freedmen’s Academy for educational needs, as well as assisted the Negroes in many of their other efforts to be self-reliant, the Dunlap settlers still failed to achieve the requirements and capabilities necessary to sustain the community. It essentially disbanded by the mid-1890s.


Was Pap Singleton’s Dunlap colony idea predictably doomed from its start because it was maybe too ambitious of an idea? Or perhaps there were too many obstacles, human and nature, that conspired against an endeavor such as this? Let us take a quick look at another group around this time that seemed to have similar obstacles to overcome. In the 1840s, thousands of Mormons over the previous 20 years had faced persecution by many of their fellow Americans because of their religious beliefs, including the murder of their spiritual leader (John Smith). Mormons had been forced out of New York, then Ohio, then Missouri. They settled for a brief time in Illinois but were then forced out by an armed militia. So the Mormons, in 1847, decided to leave the Midwest. They marched west, through the desert and eventually wound up in the unsettled territory of Utah. There they set up their community in this virtual wasteland and proceeded to build irrigation systems, the city of Salt Lake and, eventually, other towns as well. They even had their own currency. And they did all this even though they were effectively isolated from their racial cousins. What hardships the Mormons were required to endure seems to be no different, in fact, in many ways were more difficult, than what the Negroes endured in Kansas. Yet, one people thrived while the other gave up - and gave up almost as quickly as they started. But this is NOT to say that those of African descent who tried to carve out a place of their own in America, to attempt to be masters of their own destiny, don't deserve a great deal of credit for making the effort.

Pap Singleton's Colony idea was the first and the only attempt by any significant numbers of African-Americans in American history ... to attempt to create an autonomous living arrangement for their people. If only Singleton had chosen Florida instead of Kansas...

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Comments 20 comments

platinumOwl4 profile image

platinumOwl4 5 years ago

I read this article with great disappointment, The time period you are dealing with is just seven years after the Emancipation Proclamation.(1877) You can not name any other group who started where the so-called black people started from. You point out the Mormons and they are a great group to praise. Why didn't they work with the blacks? Lets take a look at the starting point for blacks, One, you were enslaved for hundreds of years without money, you had to learn a completely new language, you and you family torn apart daily and now I set you free. without money, seed are farm implements.And say "pick yourself up with your own bootstraps" What Southerner would have loaned money for seed to plant a crop or sell farm implements to a fresh out of slavery individual? Yes, some did and the called it sharecropping and who came out on top? You writ a good articles but you omit many crucial facts in a very complex scenario.


Conffused 4 years ago

It's amazing he lived as long as he did. I can't imagine charging someone $5.00 to move.


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 4 years ago from Tasmania

Most interesting perspective, this Hub, so thank you.

It's also interesting to me that there has been very little feed back and comment. I wonder if that is because the Hub itself seems to be open-ended, maybe not complete in itself. Maybe I am wrong, but it feels like there could be lots more information to dig up, which might enlighten us further.

If there is to be any progress in the effort to counter prejudice, then we need to face history as honestly as possible.

IMHO


S Leretseh profile image

S Leretseh 4 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment mr. lately. As for the feedback on this hub, the hub has been up for almost two years now and I've only received 47 hits on it. Very few seem to be interested in Pap Singleton.

With regards to adding anything more substantive here on Singleton's colony, I'm reminded of Howard Carter's comment on King Tut: (It] was born. [It] lived, and [it] died. Nothing extraordinary seems to have occurred there. Then again, it may be the way I wrote the Hub. I confess my writing talents are limited.

" the effort to counter prejudice"

What does that mean?


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 4 years ago from Tasmania

" the effort to counter prejudice" ..... I see prejudice in our modern day as a very sick, unhappy, sometimes dangerous tendency, which prevents positive and useful advancement between peoples. When ever we draw away from someone it's a defensive response. Basic emotions come into play: fear, distrust, rejection. These emotions combine usually, to make us unhappy.

Danger comes when this unhappiness gets used/abused by someone else, or a group of people, with ulterior motives. They use our natural, instinctive (defensive) behaviour and help it to build into a force. That force can then be effectively set against another group.

I suggest the "counter" to this prejudice is a concerted effort to "get to know" the person or persons who cause us fear and anxiety in the first place.

Maybe I a being a little naive here . What do you think?


S Leretseh profile image

S Leretseh 4 years ago Author

"positive and useful advancement between peoples. "

Sounds good, but I must confess, I don't know what it means.

I believe people from all races and ethnic groups should treat each other respectfully. As for fear, distrust, rejection, these are - IMO - self-preservation characteristics endowed in the human species by the creator (whomever he may be). Legislative fiat I don't believe should be used to defeat, deny or defy them.

As for defeating prejudiced feelings, of course, there is only ONE people in human history that has ever been singularly targeted for the use of artificial stimuli (Hollywood visual images specifically) to alter their perceptions of another people (people of African descent):White Christian people in America. Hollywood manufactured images, designed to guilt-trip white people to let their guard down to the black males (e.g To Kill A Mocking Bird, In The Heat Of The Night, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, TV programs, TV commercials, etc.), began in earnest in the early 60s and continue to this very day. These images portraying a happy human 'integrated' family, and where only white Christian people are seen being the disrupter of the happy human family, this visual image campaign - of guilt-tripping - has in fact worked exceptionally well. I believe racial prejudice by white people toward blacks is largely a myth today. White on black violence is statistically immeasurable (it was before 1964 as well). However, black on white violence, statistically immeasurable before 1964, rose exponentially thru the 70s, to stratospheric levels today. Very troubling to me... Tolerance has to work both ways.


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 4 years ago from Tasmania

So am I correct in thinking you start out with a bias against Afro-American people? If the answer is yes, would you care to expand our understanding of your points of view?


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

After perusing this and other of your hubs, I'll have to agree with jonnycomelately. You seem to be fixated on the black race and it makes me wonder why. What state are you from?

SSSSS


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

Okay, you don't care to identify your state of residence. Hmmm. So we cannot project the reasons for your biased and fixated opinions. This hinders the discussion a bit, don't you think? I'm from southern Georgia. I don't have to tell you there has always been a history of racial tension here or why this is the case.

I was a sophomore in high school when the first 2 black students entered the school. Yes, there were some taunts and mild threats by the white kids, but eventually they and others were absorbed into the system.

Funny, I don't hear of the large amounts of black-on-white crime as you suggest in your hubs. I would suggest the white-collar-on-black society has been more damaging to racial amity than your other fears could ever be.

Randy Godwin,

From the historically both good and bad state of Georgia

SSSSS


S Leretseh profile image

S Leretseh 4 years ago Author

I live in CA, specifically, LA county - the most diversified place on planet earth.

"I don't have to tell you there has always been a history of racial tension here or why this is the case."

Yes, I know there were tensions. But I'd bet by last dollar that my interpretation of Georgia history is different than yours. Did you even read my last post? White people are NOT to blame here. No two diverse male groups have ever been forcibly integrated into the the same political environment in human history. The federal gov't should hv created a homeland for blacks in America and allowed this demonstrable different group ... to be master of their own destiny. Can't un-ring the bell. What's done is done. However, blacks were suppose to be a separate and self-reliant people from 1865 to 1964. They chose integration. On their own volition they chose it. Were there integration problems after 1964. Of course. There was no existing template on how to integrate one race into another. White people, many reluctantly, submitted to the new integration laws. Today, who's the mayor of Atlanta? Black. Police chief? black? Selma, Al, mayor? black. BTW, Georgia has a GREAT history!

"I don't hear of the large amounts of black-on-white crime as you suggest in your hubs"

Well, I don't suggest it in my hubs. But it (black-on-white violence) is most certainly there. The MSM conceals it. Google black on white crime/ racism and see for yourself. Lots of web sites hv been created to show just how bad the situation has gotten .

My hubs deal with the past randy (1965 to 1968), not the present. However, I am very concerned about the exponential rise of black on white violence in 1964. As for white on black violence, and I hv demonstrated the veracity, it is a myth.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

Okay, I'll play along. So what is the reason for black-on white crime? Is it something in the DNA which makes young black males be particularly hostile to their white counterparts? Are we a different species in some way? Do centuries of subjugation and mistreatment have a lasting effect on such groups of different appearance and culture? Are whites more intelligent and therefore more "civilized" than blacks? Your opinion of why this may be the case would be interesting.

I suppose violence is a matter of perspective. And yes, I can find out much about Bigfoot if I look for it on the net.

SSSSS


S Leretseh profile image

S Leretseh 4 years ago Author

Crime is not a matter of "perspective" Gov't statistics show that more than 90% of all violence that crosses racial lines is black on white. In 2004, more than 580,000 white people were victimized by blacks. In 2007, it was 720,000. Doing the simple math, it means that 1 out of 10 black males between 15 and 32 will commit a violent act against a white person. It was 1 out of 2000 in 1960. There's the cost to victim and/or the victim's family, then there is also the enormous cost to the tax base because of these crimes. Think about it.

"Are whites more intelligent and therefore more "civilized" than blacks? "

This work is still evolving .

http://leretseh.blogspot.com/2011/04/restless-cult...


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

Actually, posting a link to more of your opinions helps not at all to bolster your argument. Perhaps if you looked at the history of white versus Native American relations historically it would add a different perspective. When the first Europeans first began immigrating to America they depended on the indigenous people to help them survive in this new land.

Similar to those people you referenced in this hub they didn't have the ability nor organizational skills to succeed alone. Ergo Thanksgiving Day celebrations. And how did the white man repay their kindness? By trying their best to exterminate the entire race and take all of their lands.

Would this be considered white-on-red violence? Does this mean the red man is more civilized than WE are? More intelligent? More fit to rule the world? Get real dude! There are good and bad among all human groups. Look at the economics of the situation. There's no big mystery as to what causes antagonism between the races.

Some black dude probably whipped your ass one time after you insulted him. With your attitude, I wouldn't blame his. LOL!

SSSSS


S Leretseh profile image

S Leretseh 4 years ago Author

I hv never been in a fight with a black person, nor hv I ever insulted one. Your perceptiveness is WEAK.

"Perhaps if you looked at the history of white versus Native American relations historically it would add a different perspective"

Umm, I did dude:: Hub : Carlisle Indian School

As for the early american settlers - your knowledge of American history also seems VERY WEAK - their movement toward a singular society (independence) and its actual creation followed the same pattern all human societies observed in their creation. No room for argument here. It is simply a fact. As for the early English settlers, Indians frequently were brutally cruel to them - read colonialist John Smith's diary for some real gruesome examples.

"exterminate the entire race and take all of their lands."

Infantile tripe. Grow up dude. Educate yourself on the Fort Laramie Treaty (1853). Look at the amount of land they were given! It is the Indians who broke that treaty with their violence.

I also looked at your hub production on your profile pg. Your site is, surprise to me, politically sterile. Why are you even commenting here? My hubs are on a philosophical level. And you seem to want to descend into the pit of the layman. Educate yourself, then come back...


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

Yes, the native people broke a treaty with the white man who had a reputation of trickery and subterfuge in taking anything they wanted from the former owners. And breaking many original treaties in the process with the trusting natives as well.

But no thanks on the invite to return. There are many all-white churches right close by here where I may find the same philosophical attitude you wish to opine on. Y'all have a nice day now...ya heah?

SSSSS


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

Ooops! Forgot to add. You apparently didn't look closely at my articles on my profile. Slavery is mentioned in some, as are Native Americans.

SSSSS


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 4 years ago from Tasmania

Just a brief thought, folks, since I don't have time to go into details of your (both of you) very interesting discussion.

Could the biggest difficulty be from trying to "group" people together, into a "they" do this, or "they do that? " I see references to "white people" and "black people," as if each group acts and behaves in certain tribe-like ways and can be expected to follow patterns.

I am suggesting that if and when each of us gets to know a person or family of a different ethnicity; sharing experiences, learning about each others' ways, becoming tolerant of differences........then the barriers of "race," (which we are told by geneticists, does not exist in reality), fall apart and leave us much more free in our communities. Free to know and to cherish.

The newspapers and other mass-media are driving the disharmony, because people read and watch what they feel justifies and enhances their point of view.


S Leretseh profile image

S Leretseh 4 years ago Author

"I see references to "white people" and "black people," "

Mr. Lately, I'm a realist. I see different races of people, and I hv no problem whatsoever admitting what I can clearly see. I don't see racial groups as a bad thing. In the county of LA where I live (population of 10 million + millions of illegals), I get to see virtually every racial group represented on planet earth. I can also see that every "group" has carved out their own living area e.g. Chinese, Japanese, Armenian, Arab, Iranian, Mexican, Anglo, etc. LA county is (hasn't become- it always has been) Balkanized. I equate this behavior not to something bad, but simply human nature.


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 4 years ago from Tasmania

Could you change the word from "race" to "culture?"

We are of the Human Race. The shape of the face, the eyes, the stature, the colour of skin, all variable according to location of birth and upbringing primarily, but with environmental factors also influencing all these "traits."

Every human individual on the earth is human, genetically. There are not different "races" of our species.

Now, the discussion of whether it's good, or not so good, for cultures to mix is a valid one we can enter into. But let's keep any vitriol out of the discussion.

As I suggested in my post above, if there is a group/culture you feel uneasy about, just try living next to a family of that culture. You might or you might not get on with them, but you will at lease have a first-hand experience and then can make a valid judgement... if you really need to!

If you only read about such people, you will be very biased, ignorant of the facts.


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 4 years ago from California, United States of America

The information and perspective of your writing is absolutely fascinating and thought-provoking. Although I don't agree with your view on integration and separatism, because I don't believe in either, I still am intrigued by the case you present and the information you give. It is interesting to me that someone would openly take a seemingly unpopular stance. Most people would not.

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