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The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Topic: FreedomTopic: IdentityTopic: InstitutionsTopic: PoliticsTopic: Forward
Topic: Freedom
Toolbox Overview: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Resource Menu: Freedom
Text 1. The Moment of Freedom
Text 2. Booker T. Washington
Text 3. W.E.B. Du Bois
Text 4. Charles W. Chesnutt
Text 5. Citizens
Text 6. Reconstruction
Text 7. Migration
» Reading Guide
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Reading Guide
7.  Migration
- Benjamin Singleton, Testimony before the U.S. Senate on the "Negro Exodus from the Southern States," 1880, selection
- Norfleet Browne, Letter to the American Colonization Society, 28 Jan. 1880

  Migration

When Reconstruction ended in 1877 and Union troops left the South, so too did thousands of African Americans who feared living without federal protection from white dominance and terror. So many left that the U.S. Senate held hearings in 1880 to investigate the "Negro Exodus from the Southern States." In this excerpt of testimony we hear the proud voice of black businessman Benjamin Singleton as he recounts how he "woke up the millions right through me!" by creating farming communities in Kansas for the black "Exodusters." The second voice is that of Norfleet Browne, one of thousands of black Americans who emigrated to Liberia after the war. "Africa, dear Africa," he writes, "is the only land that a colored man can say is his." Important texts to expand the geographic and conceptual framework of this section. 6 pages.


Discussion questions
  1. How do these two documents differ in tone from others in this section?
  2. How might the African Americans who left the South differ from those who stayed? In your opinion, is the difference one of situation or temperament?
  3. How did migration out of the South change the meaning of freedom for African Americans?
  4. Throughout this section, how interwoven is land ownership with freedom?
  5. Why could these two texts introduce the next section, Identity, as well as conclude this section, Freedom?

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  What challenges did the newly freed African Americans face immediately after the Civil War?
  •  What did freedom mean to the newly freed?
  •  What resources did recently emancipated African Americans possess as they assumed life as free men and women?
  •  How did African Americans define and exercise power in their first years of freedom?




Toolbox: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Freedom | Identity | Institutions | Politics | Forward


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