Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, (scroll down link to find story) an African-American former slave, businessman and abolitionist, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on this date.  He led hundreds of slaves out of the South and into the West, particularly into Kansas, during the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877).

9 thoughts on “Exodusters”

  1. Would like to correct the death date of Benjamin “Pap” Singleton as given in the story on the link. He actually died on Feb 17, 1900 in Kansas City, MO–not in 1892 in St. Louis, MO as has been widely reported. [Sources: See death notice in the Kansas City Star, Feb. 18, 1900: p. 1 (Benjamin Singleton; d. yesterday [Feb. 17, 1900], 923 W. 8th St., aged 91; former slave, who always boasted that he was once owned by General Jo Shelby’s father; “after the war he was instrumental in getting a band of Negroes to leave the South for the Northern states”; Also see: Missouri birth & death records database (Singleton, Benj.; d. Feb. 17, 1900, at 923 W. 8th St. [Kansas City], Jackson County, aged 90)

    Now trying to find Mr. Singleton’s place of burial–probably in Kansas City area. If anyone knows where he was buried, please post a response. Thank you.


    1. No, but I have seen materials relating to Benjamin Singleton posted online by KSHS at KansasMemory,org.

      Will check with K-State regarding the collection you mentioned. Thank you.

  3. Preston Washington, KC genealogist, believes he would be buried in the Highland Cemetery. I am hoping he may learn more about this.

  4. I found this on wikipedia:
    In 1881, Benjamin Singleton was seventy-two-years-old, and most people referred to him affectionately as “old Pap.” He was still a formidable figure and used his reputation to bring together blacks into an organization called the Colored United Links (CUL). The goal of the CUL, which he created in Topeka, Kansas, was to combine the financial resources of all black people to build black-owned businesses, factories, and trade schools. The CUL formed in 1881 and held several conventions. The organization was successful enough locally that Republican Party officials in Kansas became interested in its potential political strength. Presidential candidate James B. Weaver of the Greenback Party met with CUL leaders, to discuss fusion between the two groups. After 1881, CUL membership faltered, however, and the organization soon fell apart.
    After the failure of the CUL, Singleton became convinced that blacks would never be allowed to succeed in the United States. In 1883 Singleton briefly joined with St. Louis, Missouri, businessman Joseph Ware and black minister John Williams in proposing that blacks migrate to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. That idea did not develop. In 1885 Singleton moved to Kansas City where he began to organize around Pan-Africanism. In 1885 Singleton founded the United Transatlantic Society (UTS) with the goal of having all blacks relocate from the United States to Africa. This was a time when Bishop Henry McNeil Turner had his own proposed African migration movement.
    The UTS lasted till 1887 but never managed to send anyone to Africa. In poor health, Singleton retired from his life of activism. He raised his voice one final time in 1889 to call for a portion of the newly opening Oklahoma Territory to be reserved as an all-black state. Benjamin Singleton died in 1892. The location of his grave is unknown.
    Benjamin Singleton was survived by several children. His son, Joshua Singleton, eventually settled in Allensworth, California, a black agricultural settlement in Tulare County. Joshua’s grandchildren through his daughter Virginia Louise Williams were John Williams, Jr., Midge Williams (1915-1952), Charles and Robert, who started singing together in the Bay Area as the Williams Quartette. In 1928 they started touring as the Williams Four. In 1933 they had a successful tour in Shanghai, China and Japan. Midge Williams also sang as a swing jazz soloist in the late 1930s and 1940s. She recorded with a group as Midge Williams and Her Jazz Jesters.In 2002, American scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed “Pap” Singleton on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

    1. Thank you Gary. Most of this biography about Benjamin Singleton is accurate. However, I would contend that the death year is not. [I’d like to see what their source was for indicating Mr. Singleton died in 1892 as my research [and others] indicates otherwise].

    1. Gary,

      Again, I’d like to see their source for stating that Benjamin “Pap” Singleton died in St. Louis in 1892. There may have been another Benjamin Singleton who died that year in St. Louis but if so, it wasn’t Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, “father of the Exodus.”

      It was Lin Fredericksen,Reference Archivist of the Kansas State Historical Society who found Benjamin Singleton’s death notice in the Kansas City Star, dated 18 Feb 1900 with Mr. Singleton’s death date given as 17 Feb 1900. See her blog with transcription: http://www.kansasmemory.org/blog/post/73490075

      Since that time fellow Singleton researcher, Marcia Schuley and I have found two other references that indicate that “Pap” Singleton was still alive after 1892.

      One is from the Missouri Birth and Death Records database showing “Benj. Singleton” died 17 Feb 1900–his address was the same address that was given in the death notice above. See:

      Since these discoveries I have since contacted the Library of Congress, provided our documentation and asked that they correct Benjamin “Pap” Singleton’s death date and death place on their Authorities listings. They have done so.

      It is unfortunate that the incorrect death date and death place for “Pap” Singleton has been repeated in so many books, articles and documentaries.

  5. Reprinting other historian mistakes is a common practice in Kansas. Some offer the false data and then use that source as documentation to support their agenda. I call it “sloppy research”.

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