By Lesley Gist, The Gist of Freedom
Benjamin “Pap” Singleton (1809 – 1892) was an American activist and businessman best known for his role in establishing African-American settlements in Kansas.
Formerly enslaved in Tennessee, he escaped to freedom in 1846 and became a noted abolitionist, community leader, and spokesman for African American civil rights. He returned to Tennessee during the Union occupation in 1862 but soon concluded that blacks would never achieve economic equality in the white-dominated South. After the end of Reconstruction, Singleton organized the movement of thousands of black colonists, known as Exodusters, to found settlements in Kansas.
A prominent voice for new black nationalism, he became involved in promoting and coordinating black-owned businesses in Kansas and developed an interest in the Back-to-Africa movement. (Black History Pages)
Singleton looked to Kansas as a potential site for black emigration, organizing the Tennessee Real Estate and Homestead Association with his business partner, Columbus Johnson. This company founded the Dunlap Colony in Morris County and a short-lived settlement in Cherokee County.
Although his company did not create many successful colonies, through his advertisements he did help thousands of Exodusters relocate to Kansas, leading to his name as “Father of the Exodus.” Singleton also organized a political group called the United Colored Links and later in life he promoted black colonization.