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Faces of Our History: Benjamin ‘Pap’ Singleton

Benjamin "Pap" Singleton
Benjamin “Pap” Singleton

Benjamin Singleton was born in 1809 in Davidson County, close to Nashville, Tennessee. The exact of his birthday or parents are unclear. His father was white and his mother was an enslaved black women.

Around age 37, after several failed attempts to escape to freedom in 1946 he was successful. He followed the Underground Rail road, and ended up in Windsor, Ontario. Singleton decided to head to Detroit, Michigan where he used the resources he had to help other slaves who escape get to freedom in Canada.

In 1862 Singleton resided in Nashville, Tennessee. Being free he still faces racial violence and injustice. He joined up with Columbus M. Johnson who was a black minister in Sumner County. Together they looked for ways to establish economic independence for black americans.

Johnson and Singleton founded the Edgefield Real Estate Association in 1874, it would helped African-Americans own land in Nashville. The faces many issue due to wile landowners setting the land price too high for would be black landowner buy land. The following year Singleton thought outside the box and aimed for black colonies in the American West. He then changed the name from Edgefield Real Estate Association to Edgefield Real Estate and Homestead Association. The pair looked for land in Cherokee County.

Due to Cherokee County not being a great area, due to land prices they set their sights on former Kaw Indian Reservation not to far from Dunlap, Kansas. In 1879, the Great Exodus happened. 50,000 freedmen known as Exodusters migrated to Kansas and a few other places to escape the same thing Singleton left. They also wanted better working conditions and peace. The U.S Senate, called Singleton to appear before them to testify on the cause of the Great Exodus to Kansas. He explained why the freedmen left the South.

At age, 72 Singleton used his status to bring blacks together and started the C.U.L (Colored United Link). The purpose of CUL was to gain financial resources for all black people to start black owned businesses, trade schools and factories.

After trying hard trying to help blacks become successful and failing. He was convinced that it would never happen in the U.S. In 1885, he began to start the Pan-Africanism, he wanted all blacks to relocate to Africa. A few years later that fell through as well.

Benjamin Singleton died on February 17, 1900 in Kansas City, Missouri.

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