Refugees on levee, April 17, 1897, photo by Carroll's Art Gallery

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Western Migration and Homesteading

Map Locating Noblesville, Indiana

Landownership maps and atlases were published by commercial companies, usually on a subscription basis, for the wealthier rural areas. Landownership atlases also documented the migration of blacks to the Midwest. A map of Noblesville, the fifth seat of Hamilton, County, Indiana, shows the site of the Roberts Settlement. In 1909, Stephen Roberts Jr. (b. 1849), grandson of Willis Roberts, the first settler, was still buying cattle in Noblesville.

Hamilton County, Indiana Indiana: The Hamilton Trust Company, 1906 Map Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (98)

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Roberts Settlement Land Grant

Abraham Jones's 1837 land-grant certificate, signed by President Martin Van Buren, is typical of those issued to the colonists of the Roberts Settlement.

Land grant certificate The Roberts Family Papers, 1734-1944 Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (99)

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Roberts Family Genealogical Chart

The Roberts family chart traces the descendants of James Roberts I of Northampton County, North Carolina, grandfather of Willis Roberts (1782-1846) and founder of the Roberts Settlement in Noblesville, Indiana. Willis Roberts became a prosperous farmer and eventually married Mary Marthaline Hunt. They had eight children born between 1803 and 1819.

Photocopy of manuscript chart Roberts Family Papers, 1734-1944 Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (100)

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Jobs of Black Women in World War I

During World War I, industrial opportunities became available to women when workers were needed to replace men drafted into military service. Black women responded to the demand by leaving their homes and domestic jobs. This chart shows a sampling of the industrial occupations of 21,547 black women in approximately seventy-five specific processes, at 152 plants, during the period December 1, 1918, to June 30, 1919. The report was made by Mrs. Helen B. Irvin, Special Agent of the Women's Bureau on 1918-1919. United States. Department of Labor. Division of Negro Economics.

The Negro at Work During the World War and During Reconstruction: Statistics, Problems, and Policies Relating to the Greater Inclusion of Negro Wage Earners in American Industry and Agriculture, p. 125 New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969 General Collections, Library of Congress (101)

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Founder and Editor of the Chicago Defender

African-American journalist Robert Sengstacke Abbott (1868-1940) founded the Chicago Defender on May 6, 1905, with a capital totaling twenty-five cents. His editorial creed was to fight against "segregation, discrimination, disenfranchisement. …" The Defender reached national prominence during the mass migration of blacks from the South during World War I, when the paper's banner headline for January 6, 1917, read "Millions to Leave South." The Defender became the bible of many seeking “The Promised Land.” Abbott advertised Chicago so effectively that even migrants heading for other northern cities sought information and assistance from the pages of the “Worlds Greatest Weekly.”

Kenneth L. Kusmer, Ed. The Great Migration and After, 1917-1930, vol. 5, p. 4 Black Communities and Urban Development in America, 1720-1990, vol. 5 New York: Garland, 1991 General Collections, Library of Congress (102)

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The “Exoduster” Movement

Benjamin “Pap” Singleton (1809-1892), a former slave born in Nashville, Tennessee, became the leader of the "Exoduster Movement" of 1879, and in later years he was accorded the title "Father of the Exodus." In the late 1860s, Singleton and his associates urged blacks to acquire farmland in Tennessee, but whites would not sell productive land to them. As an alternative Singleton began scouting land in Kansas in the early 1870s. Soon several black families migrated from Nashville. By 1874, Singleton and his associates had formed the Edgefield Real Estate and Homestead Association in Tennessee, which steered more than 20,000 black migrants to Kansas between 1877 and 1879. In 1880 Singleton claimed to be “the whole cause of the Kansas immigration,“ in testimony before a U.S. committee on the “exodus to Kansas.”

Nell Irvin Painter Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After the Reconstruction, p. 100 New York: Knopf, 1977 General Collections, Library of Congress (103)

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Emigrants Traveling to Kansas

In February of 1880, more than 900 black families from Mississippi reached St. Louis, en route to Kansas. Some black migrants sought "conductors" to make travel arrangements for them. These conductors would often ask for money in advance and not show up at the appointed departure time, leaving migrants stranded at docks and train stations.

Refugees on Levee, 1897. Carroll's Art Gallery. Photomural from gelatin-silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (105)

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Exodusters En Route To Kansas

At the time of the Exodus to Kansas, yellow fever ravaged many river towns in Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Because many of the black migrants who stopped over in these towns -- coming by steamboat, train, or horseback -- were sick, unwashed, and poverty-stricken, it was assumed by city officials that they must be potential disease carriers. This caused great alarm in such cities as St. Louis, which imposed unnecessary quarantine measures to discourage future migrants.

“Negro Exodusters en route to Kansas, fleeing from the yellow fever,” Photomural from engraving. Harpers Weekly, 1870. Historic American Building Survey Field Records, HABS FN-6, #KS -49-11 Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (106)

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Exoduster Leaders

In 1874 Benjamin Singleton and his associates formed the Edgefield Real Estate and Homestead Association in Tennessee. This association sought out the best locations for black settlements. Singleton tried to establish a well-planned and organized movement to Kansas, but by 1879, the unruly, mass Exodus had overwhelmed his efforts.

Benjamin Singleton, and S.A. McClure, Leaders of the Exodus, leaving Nashville, Tennessee. Photomural from montage. Historic American Building Survey Field Records, HABS FN-6, #KS-49-12 Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (107)

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Advertisement for Kansas

Blacks had obtained information about Kansas by several means: letters from migrants, who settled in Nicodemus and other locations; circulars; and mass meetings. Benjamin Singleton printed handbills in an attempt to attract blacks to visit or settle in Kansas. One such flier was headed: “Ho For Kansas!”

“Ho For Kansas!” Copyprint of handbill. Historic American Building Survey Field Records, HABS FN-6, #KS-49-14 Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (109)

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