By the end of the nineteenth century, African Americans had established a number of agricultural communities in Dakota Territory and in Nebraska. Two hundred former Tennesseans homesteaded in Harlan County, and in 1884, I. B. Burton, a successful farmer in Crete, Nebraska - part of another group of settlers who had pooled their resources - published a letter in a Washington, D.C., newspaper:
A large company can emigrate and purchase railroad lands for about half of what it would cost single persons, or single families.... Windmills are indispensable in the far west, and one windmill could be made to answer four or five farmers each having an interest in it.
Few African Americans answered Burton's call until the Kinkaid Homestead Act of 1904 threw open thousands of acres in northwestern Nebraska's Sand Hills regions. By 1910, twenty-four families, most from Omaha, had claimed 14,000 acres of land in Cherry County. Eight years later, 185 African Americans homesteaded 40,000 acres around a small all-black community, aptly named Audacious.
Ava Speese Day wrote of her childhood in the Sand Hills:
"The Negro pioneers worked hard . . . it was too sandy for grain so the answer was cattle. . . . We [also] raised mules [which] brought a good price on the Omaha market." In the early 1920s, however, the state's black farm families - much like those in Oklahoma and Kansas - began to leave the land and move on to cities.
In 1910, Oliver Toussaint Jackson, born in Ohio but by that time resident for twenty-five years in Denver, made the last major attempt at black agricultural colonization on the High Plains. Inspired by Booker T. Washington's self-help philosophy, Jackson and his wife, Minerva, filed a "desert claim" for 320 acres in Colorado's Weld County, and the town of Dearfield was established. Jackson recalled the first settlers:
poor as people could be when they took up their homesteads.... Some of them paid their [railroad] fare as far as they could and walked the balance of the way to Dearfield.... Some of us were in tents, some in dugouts and some just had a cave in the hillside.
Within five years the colonists had claimed 8,000 of the county's 20,000 available acres. Dearfield's population peaked at 700 in 1921. But the lure of Denver jobs, the inability to obtain water for irrigation, and the post-World War I agricultural depression all led to the colony's demise. A bleak countryside did not help matters. One former resident recalled, "It was always the same . . . a lot of wind blowing . . . bad wind." Dearfield, like Boley, Nicodemus, and other black towns before it, slid into oblivion.
Following Booker T. Washington's message of self-reliance, Allen Allensworth, an Army veteran who had fought during the Civil War, sought residents for an all-black town. By 1912, more than three hundred families had settled in Allensworth, California, which was located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It was one of four black towns in the state. For several years, Allensworth was a success, but it eventually declined, in part because the Santa Fe Railroad built a stop in a neighboring white town that diverted a great deal of the traffic that had helped the black town prosper. In addition, when it needed access to new water supplies, the white towns refused to allow Allensworth to share their system.