The Western Migration


The saga of African-American migration to the West begins in the East, in Philadelphia, where, in 1833, the Third Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color considered the colonization of West Africa. After much deliberation, the assembly promoted immigration to Mexican Texas as a better alternative.

For the next decades, the twin themes of freedom and opportunity in the West struck a chord with many African Americans, propelling them toward the setting sun. Between 1860 and 1950, the black population of the western states grew from 196,000 to 1,787,000.

In search of land, in the early days, or industrial jobs during World War II, the migrants did not always find the political and economic El Dorado they sought, but their efforts transformed their lives, the region, and the nation as a whole.

The Early Black West

The first people of African ancestry to migrate into what is now the western United States originated from Central Mexico, to which 200,000 Africans were forcibly transported between 1521 and 1821. Beginning in the 1600s, the newcomers settled on the northern frontier of the Spanish colony, seeking to improve their lives and escape the social discrimination of the central region. They established a pattern that would continue into the twentieth century.

Isabel de Olivera was typical of the hundreds of Spanish-speaking black settlers who founded and populated cities and towns from San Antonio to San Francisco. In 1781, they comprised a majority of the founders of Los Angeles. Olivera, one of the first inhabitants of Santa Fe in 1600, wrote:

I am going . . . to New Mexico and have some reason to fear that I may be annoyed by some individual since I am a mulatto. It is proper to protect my rights in such an eventuality by an affidavit showing that I am a free woman, unmarried and the legitimate daughter of Hernando, a negro, and an Indian woman named Magdalena . . . . I demand Justice.

When Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821 - abolishing slavery and guaranteeing full citizenship rights to all, regardless of color - hundreds of free African Americans crossed the border into what was then Mexican Texas to seek the freedom denied them in the United States. But Texas revolutionaries crushed the aspirations of free blacks and runaways when they transformed the new Republic of Texas into a vast slaveholding empire in 1836. The days of freedom were over; for African Americans, that part of the West was no longer a safe harbor.

The first significant numbers of African Americans to enter the territory north of Texas did not do so by choice. Between 1830 and 1850, nearly seventy thousand Native Americans were forcibly relocated from the Old South to Indian Territory. Their ranks included ten thousand blacks - some of whom were enslaved. At least 175 perished along the way.

The Far West

While some African Americans had ventured into Oregon Territory as early as the 1840s, and Colorado Territory after the Pikes Peak gold rush of 1859, the vast majority moved to California. That state's gold rush, which began in 1848, stimulated migration from throughout the eastern United States. Between 1850 and 1860, four thousand African Americans reached the Golden State. Half of that number settled in San Francisco and Sacramento, creating the first English-speaking black urban communities in the Far West.

Mifflin W. Gibbs arrived in San Francisco from Philadelphia in 1850 with only sixty cents in his pocket. After working as a well-paid bootblack, he and a partner opened a shoe store that became highly successful. In a 1902 autobiography, Shadow and Light, he recalled those early days:

Thanks to the evolution of events and march of liberal ideas the colored men in California now have a recognized citizenship, and equality before the law. It was not so at the period of which I write. With thrift and a wise circumspection financially, their opportunities were good [but] from every other point of view they were ostracized, assaulted without redress, disfranchised, and denied their oath in court.

Other black migrants headed for the Mother Lode Country, the gold vein stretching over four hundred miles along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. An unidentified black woman seen in the desert, just east of the mountains, was described as

tramping along through the heat and dust, carrying a cast iron bake stove on her head with her provisions and a blanket piled on top - all she possessed in the world - bravely pushing on for California.

Some African Americans struck gold. In 1851, miner Peter Brown wrote home to his wife in Missouri about his good fortune: "California is the best . . . place for black folks on the globe. All a man has to do is work and he will make money."

The abolition of slavery created the potential for mass African-American migration to the West. Few crossed the plains in wagon trains; they were more likely to take trains or steamboats. The vast majority, however, took the transportation most available to a newly freed people, they walked . . . into Texas, Indian Territory, and Kansas.

In Texas, agricultural workers made $20 a month - double their pay in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Such an incentive attracted masses of people. In the last three decades of the nineteenth century, the African-American population of Texas more than doubled - from 253,000 to over 620,000.

African Americans, mainly from Arkansas and Tennessee, also migrated into Indian Territory, where they became farmers on land they could not legally own until 1889. In Indian-controlled areas, their status as intruders could subject them to expulsion. Despite these obstacles, the black population in Indian Territory would rise sixfold to 36,000 by 1900, outnumbering the Native Americans.

To Kansas

Kansas, which had been a sanctuary for runaways during the Civil War, continued to loom large in the minds of many African-American Southerners. Between 1870 and 1890, some thirty thousand migrants settled in the state. Kansas was the closest western state to the Old South that allowed blacks to homestead in the 1870s, and it became a magnet for land-hungry newcomers from Missouri, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, as well as such Deep South states as Louisiana and Mississippi.

The 1862 Homestead Act applied to Kansas and other western states and territories: settlers - regardless of their race or gender - could pay a small filing fee and receive 160 acres from the federal government. In return, they agreed to reside on the land, and improve it over a five-year period. After six months, they could purchase the property for $1.25 an acre.

Another factor pulling black migrants to Kansas was the state's powerful abolitionist tradition. Here, John Brown had first battled to free slaves, and here the first black soldiers joined the Union Army. Kansas had welcomed the Emancipation Proclamation and was among the first to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment. "I am anxious to reach your state," wrote a black Louisianian to the governor of Kansas in 1879, "not because of the great race [for land] now made for it but because of the sacredness of her soil washed by the blood of humanitarians for the cause of black freedom."

After the Civil War, thousands of African Americans relocated to areas free of racial restrictions and violence.

The first of these "political migrations" was a mid-1870s exodus from Tennessee. It was led by Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, who recognized the limitations of Reconstruction-era political reform in the South.

Singleton had escaped a dozen times during his years of enslavement, finally reaching Canada as a passenger on the Underground Railroad. In 1874, while working as a carpenter in Nashville, he distributed a circular, The Advantage of Living in a Free State, encouraging migration to Kansas. At least ten thousand African Americans journeyed to the Sunflower State between 1874 and 1890, partly in response to his call.

In 1877, a white developer, together with six prospective black homesteaders from the South, founded the town of Nicodemus. They envisioned a self-sustaining, self-governing black agricultural community on the Kansas frontier. Named after a legendary African prince who purchased his freedom from bondage, the new town quickly captured the nation's attention. In July, the first thirty colonists arrived from Kentucky. They were joined the following spring by an additional 150 men and women from Tennessee, Missouri, and Mississippi.

Nothing in their experiences had prepared the migrants for life on the Kansas frontier. The flat, barren, windswept High Plains, known for blazing summer heat and bitter winter cold, were better suited to growing cactus than corn and wheat. One of the settlers, Williana Hickman, was dismayed to discover that the townsfolk lived not in houses, but in dugouts. "We landed and struck tents," she recalled. "The scenery was not at all inviting and I began to cry."

Despite their initial misgivings, Hickman and most of the early colonists stayed on. By 1880, 258 blacks and 58 whites resided in the town and the surrounding area. For African Americans across the country, Nicodemus became an important symbol of self-governance and economic enterprise.

But the town's prospects were always precarious and, in the 1880s, it underwent a steady decline. The winter blizzards of 1885 destroyed 40 percent of the wheat crop, and settlers began to leave. Two years later, the Missouri Pacific Railroad bypassed the town and, as was the case for hundreds of other communities cut off from the railway, Nicodemus's fate was sealed. After 1888, local boosters ceased trying to attract new settlers, and prominent citizens left the area.

In the summer of 1879, a few hundred people settled in Morris and Graham counties - the vanguard of some six thousand Southern African Americans who would join the exodus to Kansas.

Although the so-called Kansas Fever conjured up images of a leaderless movement of impoverished freed men and women, driven by blind faith toward a better place, it was a rational response to conditions in the South. When a St. Louis Globe reporter asked a woman with a child at her breast if she would return to her former home, she replied, "What, go back! . . . I'd sooner starve here."

But Topeka Mayor Michael C. Case spoke for many of his city's white residents when he refused to spend municipal funds to aid the Exodusters, as they were called, suggesting the money would be better used to return them to the South. The Topeka Colored Citizen, on the other hand, celebrated the migration: "Our advice . . . to the people of the South, Come West, Come to Kansas . . . it is better to starve to death in Kansas than be shot and killed in the South."

The Kansas exodus ended almost as suddenly as it had begun. Its demise was the result of neither white opposition, nor of the advice of leaders such as Frederick Douglass that African Americans remain in the South, nor of the machinations of swindlers who preyed on the people's gullibility. Rather, word filtered back that little free land remained and that many Exodusters were still destitute a year after their arrival. Southern blacks realized that Kansas was not the "promised land." Although migration from Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana continued after 1880, it never reached the level of the spring and summer of 1879.

Migration to Oklahoma

Oklahoma Territory became the other major area for African-American migration. It was created in 1866 out of the western half of the original Indian Territory on land originally set aside for settlement by Native Americans, such as the Comanche and Cheyenne nations. Pressure from white prospective settlers persuaded the federal government to further reduce Indian lands, and open the surplus to homesteaders. The famous April 22, 1889 "run" for land claims followed.

For many African Americans, Oklahoma Territory represented the possibility of creating towns and colonies where black people would be free to exercise their political rights without interference. Edwin P. McCabe, who as State Auditor had been the most powerful black man in Kansas, arrived in Oklahoma in 1890. Through his newspaper, the Langston City Herald, McCabe declared the Territory the "paradise of Eden and the garden of the Gods." To African Americans growing restless under Southern segregation and lynch law, he added a special enticement: "Here the negro can rest from mob law, here he can be secure from every ill of the southern policies."

McCabe and his wife, Sarah, founded Langston City, an all-black community. It was named after John Mercer Langston, a black Virginia congressman who favored migration to Oklahoma and had pledged support for a black college in the town.

The McCabes, who owned most of the town lots, immediately began to advertise for purchasers through the Herald's network of readers in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee. By 1891, two hundred people lived in Langston City, including a doctor, a minister, and a schoolteacher.

Langston City's fate depended largely on homesteading in the region. Nearly a year before the Sac and Fox reservation was opened to settlers, Herald agents spread the word throughout the South. Hundreds of African Americans arrived in time for the September 22, 1891 opening, many of them armed and reputedly ready to secure a home "at any price." Six months later, thousands raced for the opening of the Cheyenne - Arapaho lands; and in 1893 many more staked claims in the Cherokee Strip.

Over time, a thriving farming population arose, which supported African-American business owners and professionals. By 1900, African American farmers owned 1.5 million acres valued at $11 million. Black land ownership peaked at the turn of the twentieth century. By 1910, it was in decline, and many of the children of the first generation of Exodusters now fell easy prey to the siren call of the cities.

The African-American migration to the Twin Territories produced thirty-two all-black towns. Boley, founded in the former Creek Nation in 1904, was the most famous. It was established by two white entrepreneurs; William Boley, a railroad manager, and Lake Moore, a former federal officeholder. They hired an African American, Tom Haynes, to promote the community. Booker T. Washington visited Boley in 1908. The town, he wrote,

is striking evidence of the progress made in thirty years.... The westward movement of the negro people has brought into these new lands, not a helpless and ignorant horde of black people, but land-seekers and home-builders, men who have come prepared to build up the country....

Two years later, Boley's day in the sun was over. Agricultural prices plummeted; crops failed. In 1907, Oklahoma gained statehood, and the Democratic-dominated state legislature quickly disenfranchised black voters, and segregated public schools and accommodations. Jim Crow had come to Oklahoma.

Moving Further West

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.

To the Cities

Today, most African-American westerners live in the region's cities. The origin of these contemporary communities lies with the rise of the black urban population during the nineteenth century. In 1885, as black cowboys trailed cattle from Texas to Dodge City, or black homesteaders grew wheat in Kansas, far more African-American men and women moved to Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles in search of jobs in the urban economy.

By 1910, the combined black population of the five largest western cities was only eighteen thousand: just one-fifth of the number living in Washington, D.C., at the time. In the big cities and smaller towns like Topeka; Salt Lake City; Virginia City; Nevada; and Helena, Montana, the newcomers established churches, fraternal organizations, social clubs, and even fledgling civil rights organizations. In their new hometowns, male and female migrants were employed as personal servants. Black men also worked as hotel waiters, railroad porters, messengers, cooks, and janitors. Some entrepreneurial African Americans operated barber shops, restaurants, and rooming houses.

Most black migrants to Colorado settled in Denver; by 1870, 56 percent of the state's African-American population lived there. One of the first was Barney Ford, who had come from Virginia in 1860. He worked as a barber and restaurant owner until he built the Inter-Ocean Hotel in 1874. For many years it was "the aristocratic hostelry of Denver." Ford later opened another hotel in Cheyenne, Wyoming. But most of the black men who came to fast-growing Denver were single laborers and construction workers. By the 1890s, middle-class African Americans began to concentrate in the Five Points district, creating a stable, if increasingly segregated community.

By 1900, black Denver boasted three newspapers, nine churches, one hotel, various restaurants and saloons, a funeral home, and a drugstore. Its professional class included two doctors, three lawyers, and numerous musicians. By 1906, Sarah Breedlove had arrived from Louisiana and married newspaper reporter Charles Walker. She became Madam C. J. Walker; her nationally marketed line of beauty products would make her one of the nation's most successful African-American business entrepreneurs.

The Golden State

Established during the Gold Rush, San Francisco had the oldest black urban community in the West. But the number of African Americans in the city declined between 1890 and 1910 as many moved across the bay to Oakland, the city's first suburb.

Most were laborers or domestic servants, but sailors, ship stewards, and dockworkers made for greater employment diversity than existed in inland communities. However, their meager wages did little to raise the overall prosperity, and most African Americans survived on the urban economy's edge.

Despite their financial difficulties, black San Franciscans created a model for organized African-American community life in the West. In 1865, they could learn the "fine art of dancing" for $3 a month at Seales Hall. Four decades later, they could exhibit a flair for Shakespearean acting at Charles H. Tinsley Drama Club. These urbanites saw successful citizenship as linked to standards of Victorian civility and sought, through "refinement" and knowledge of the world, to gain the respect of their fellows, white and black.

By 1910, Los Angeles, with 7,599 African-American residents, had the largest black urban population in the West. The land boom of the 1880s had increased the city's population, allowing a few early settlers to reap immense profits. Bridget "Biddy" Mason was one of them. She had purchased a house on Spring Street in 1866 for $250; fifteen years later she sold part of the property for $1,500. Mason established the city's oldest black church, First African Methodist in 1872, and left behind a dynasty of African American real estate tycoons. Her son-in-law, Charles Owens, owned valuable parcels in downtown Los Angeles, and her grandson, Robert C. Owens, built a $250,000 six-story building in 1905 on the site of Biddy's original home. The Colored American Magazine designated him "the richest Negro west of Chicago." Robert C. Owens became a confidant of Booker T. Washington and a major contributor to Tuskegee Institute.

African American Los Angeles grew rapidly during the twentieth century's first decade. In 1903, the Southern Pacific Railroad brought two thousand black laborers to break a strike of Mexican American construction workers, doubling the size of the community. Intense inter-ethnic rivalry resulted and, today, still lingers.

Hundreds of black Texans also migrated to the area. Familial networks encouraged emigration. "We came here in 1902," declared a Tennessee couple. "We were doing pretty well, so we sent back home and told cousins to come along. When the cousins got here, they sent for their cousins. Pretty soon the whole community was made up of Tennessee people."

Urban boosters also helped attract new Angelenos. E. H. Rydall wrote in 1907, "Southern California is more adapted for the colored man than any other part of the United States [because] the climate. . . is distinctively African . . .this is the sunny southland in which the African thrives." The first black residential neighborhood began to evolve south of downtown, along Central Avenue. The mostly Southern-born migrants created a vibrant district, which eventually became known as the Harlem of the West.

World War II and After in the Black West

World War II initiated the largest migration of African Americans in the region's history. During the 1940s, the West's black population grew by 443,000 (33 percent), with most of the newcomers settling in the coastal cities of California, Oregon, and Washington. Oklahoma lost 23,300 African Americans, 14 percent of its black population, while California gained 338,000. The increase resulted, in the main, from the booming defense industries, which rescued black workers from decades of menial employment. Thousands more African Americans were stationed on military bases; after the war, many sent for their families and settled permanently. The World War II migration made the entire region "younger, more southern, more female, and noticeably more black than ever before."

Getting to the Pacific coast in those days was not an easy task. Many migrants followed long, hot, dusty stretches of highway across Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Since few hotels would take them in, travelers took turns driving, and camped along the roadsides. Those making the trip by train faced three or four days on crowded, uncomfortable, and often segregated cars. But people were willing to endure these poor conditions because black workers could find decent-paying jobs in shipyards and aircraft factories all along the Pacific coast. However, they also encountered their share of problems, including unwarranted job transfers, anti-black remarks by supervisors and co-workers, and residential segregation. Fanny Christina Hill recalled: "They did everything they could to keep you separated . . . . They just did not like for a Negro and a white person to get together to talk."

But black workers in the West Coast plants joined integrated unions, worked in the same buildings as whites, and lunched in the same cafeterias. For thousands of black women and men in skilled jobs, the defense industry work changed the quality of their lives. Fanny Christina Hill put it bluntly: "The War made me live better. Hitler was the one that got us out of the white folks' kitchen."

African Americans shared their nation's joy on V-J Day, 1945. But for many the celebration soon turned bittersweet. By 1947, thousands of African Americans who had been "essential workers" during the war were unemployed and roamed the streets of Los Angeles, Oakland, and Portland. In that year, black Oaklanders, although only 10 percent of the city's population, made up half of the applicants for welfare. The postwar job outlook in Portland was so dismal that the black population declined by half between 1944 and 1947.

But in other cities, African American people prospered. In San Francisco, men gained union membership and access to the skilled jobs those organizations controlled. Large numbers entered the construction trades and transportation, and a few obtained white-collar jobs in banks, insurance firms, and public utilities. Progress was slower for women; by 1950, more than half remained in domestic service, but a few were beginning to work as clerks, stenographers, and secretaries.

In Seattle, Boeing's black workforce kept growing. The Cold War required more military planes and there was a great demand for commercial aircraft. Between 1945 and 1950, Seattle's black population increased by five thousand people. By 1948, the median income of the city's African-American families was $3,334, only 4 percent below that of white families nationally.

Although African Americans continued to migrate westward after 1950, the region never again experienced the huge influxes of World War II. By 1965, the year of the Watts Uprising in Los Angeles, it was clear that racial discrimination in employment, housing, and public schools had made the region remarkably similar to the rest of the nation.

Although many African-American westerners saw their lives improved by the civil rights and Black Power movements, after Watts there was a palpable decline in optimism among both the middle and working classes about the region's potential for affording them opportunity and racial justice.

Even the most successful individuals now realized that thousands of other African Americans in South Central Los Angeles, Denver's Five Points, or Seattle's Central District faced a daunting task in overcoming both the physical and psychological barriers constructed by centuries of racism and poverty. These westerners had finally abandoned the search for a racial Promised Land. Instead they chose political and cultural struggle because, for them, the West was the "end of the line both socially and geographically. There was no better place to go."


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Winship, George Parker. "The Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542." Fourteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology. Smithsonian Institution, 1892-93, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office , 1896, 329-373.

Wintz, Cary D. "The Emergence of a Black Neighborhood: Houston's Fourth Ward, 1865-1915," in Miller, Char and Sanders, Heywood T. ed., Urban Texas: Politics and Development. College Station: Texas A&M University Press , 1990.

Woods, Randall B. A Black Odyssey: John Lewis Waller and the Promise of American Life, 1878-1900. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas , 1981.

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Web Links


A portal for the African-American experience in Arizona.

St. Louis Experience

From bondage and migration to civil rights activism, this essay outlines the themes, trends, ideas, and developments over time (1830's-1970's) that have had an impact on the way the City looks today.

End of the Oregon Trail

This site provides biographies of African-American pioneers of Oregon and other parts of the Northwest along with links to pages of information about slavery and exclusion laws, and significant dates in Oregon's African-American history.

In Nebraska

This section of a larger site provides a thorough account of Nebraska's African-American migration along with photos and educator resources.

Racial Tensions in 1920's Nebraska

The story features articles from newspapers including African-American newspaper, the Cleveland Advocate reporting on the Western migration and racial tensions in 1920's Nebraska.

African Americans in the West

This section of WestWeb provides information about African-Americans in the west. Under Texts you will find examples of primary texts, such as the letters of WWII African-American GIs. Under Resources, you will find biographies of Western African-Americans as well as other resources, such as bibliographies and teaching materials. Under Links to Other Sites, you will find a collection of links to sites dealing with various issues in African-American history, such as overland migration, the Black Panthers, and cowboy history. Finally, under Images, you will find both general collections which include some images of Western African-American history and direct links to pictures available online.

History of Southwest Arkansas

Golden Prospects and Fraternal Amenities: Mifflin W. Gibbs's Arkansas Years by Tom W. Dillard. This lengthy article/excerpt from Dillard's thesis recounts Gibbs's life, primarily after settling in Arkansas. He was born in Philadelphia but migrated to California, Canada, and Ohio.


A National Park Service site bout the history of African Americans in California.

Miners at Spanish Flat

Gold Rush! California's Untold Stories digital exhibit. This photo bio gives information on the African-American migration during the California Gold rush including population statistics.

African Americans and the Old West

This Long Island University site includes extensive research on the history of African Americans in various parts of the west and the traditions they created. Text, images, links and resource references are displayed.

Nicodemus, Kansas

The web page features Nicodemus as a historical site and "the only remaining western community established by African Americans after the Civil War. Having an important role in American History, the town symbolizes the pioneering spirit of these ex-slaves who fled the war-torn South in search of "real" freedom and a chance to restart their lives."

African American Mosaic: Nicodemus

Library and Congress Photos and Prints Division- a series of images related to the founding of Nicodemus, Kansas.

Black Towns

Brief article on the significance of African-American towns founded during the Western Migration

Friends of Allensworth

Friends of Allensworth, a volunteer association dedicated to increasing the awareness of the only California town to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. Historical contributions are featured along with the present state of Allensworth.

Oklahoma Black Towns

This is a web page listing Oklahoma towns founded by African Americans with brief bios of their founders.

America's Racial Frontier

Informative site with many essays and pictures.


"Utah's Early African American Farmers": a short article giving insight into the African-American experience in Utah in the nineteenth century. Published in History Blazer, May 1996.