Exodus: Black people fled the South in droves more than a century ago, seeking true freedom

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tags: slavery, African American history, Black History, Great Migration, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

In the decade after the Civil War, former slaves in the South searched for a way out. They were sickened and exhausted by the racist terrorism that had followed emancipation. Though freed from slavery, African Americans were routinely cheated, attacked and killed by whites who tolerated them barely, if at all.

“Blacks who realized that Southern whites viewed them as basically units of labor ... insisted that Negroes would have to leave the South,” historian Nell Irvin Painter wrote in her 1976 book, "Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction."

So they left. The so-called Exodusters moved west to Kansas. Some settled in cities like Topeka and Kansas City, and others established towns like Bogue and Nicodemus in the western part of the state. By 1880, thousands had taken part in what historians call the first major migration of former slaves.

This western exodus has been overlooked in many tellings of black history. But scholars are using it and other mass migrations to construct a new framework for studying black history and experiences. Moving beyond focusing only on slavery and its consequences, scholars have identified 13 distinct migrations that “formed and transformed African America,” according to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a division of the New York Public Library.

Read entire article at USA Today

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