Peggy Hardman

EXODUS OF 1879. Beginning around 1875 a group of black Texas freedmen determined to move to Kansas, where a homestead act offered free land to settlers willing to meet occupancy and improvement qualifications. Between 1875 and 1880 Kansas became the "promised land" and "Kansas fever" spread, as black Texans left the Democratic South. The heaviest migration from Texas occurred in 1879–80. In 1879 African Americans from Washington, Burleson, Grimes, Nacogdoches, Walker, and Waller counties, tired of such harsh realities as share-cropping and limited political and economic influence under the Black Codes, boarded the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad or traveled by wagon to Parsons, Kansas. So many arrived in Kansas that year that Kansans called them the "Texodusters." Their number can only be estimated, but it is known that around 1,000 left Texas in November of 1879 and 3,000 to 4,000 by March 1880. As many as 12,000 are estimated to have made the journey.

Before 1879 those leaving North Texas, only about 300 miles from Kansas, found the trip relatively easy. Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, a former Tennessee slave, promoted the migration, but as he inspired travelers, unscrupulous men began selling them bogus railway tickets and fictitious travel amenities. Richard Allen urged a planned, gradual movement out of the state. A convention held in Houston in 1879 to discuss leaving the state warned against any hasty move and against swindlers at both ends of the journey. As a result, later travelers enjoyed a greater measure of success in their new home. Although hardships abounded in Kansas, few Texodusters returned home. Most remained in Kansas and by 1900 found themselves improved economically and politically.

The exodus caused hardship for white Texas landowners. In some regions only a sparse labor force remained to work fields. In Washington County white farmers tried to retain black workers by offering not only the traditional one-year rentals on farms at five dollars an acre, but three-year terms at an annual reduction to three dollars an acre. Because these new contracts benefited workers choosing to remain, the exodus was generally beneficial for Texas blacks.

Robert G. Athearn, In Search of Canaan: Black Migration to Kansas, 1879–80 (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1978). Nell Irvin Painter, Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction (New York: Knopf, 1976).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Peggy Hardman, "EXODUS OF 1879," accessed January 27, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ume02.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...