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“A Colored Colony Coming”



On May 19, 1882, the Bismarck Tribune wrote:


“W. S. Ingram, a colored man from Mayersville, Miss., writes to know if the members of a colony of his race would receive the same courtesies in this section that would be extended to a colony of whites. The TRIBUNE can assure Mr. Ingram that there is no color line in this region. A man, no matter what his color, or previous condition of servitude, has the undisputed right here to take the free lands of Dakota, and work as hard as he sees fit, and make all the money he can. No one will deny him this privilege. A man is not sized up by his color in the Bismarck region, but by his worth. … Let Mr. Ingram come on with his colony of colored men, the people of this district are not afraid of them, and will never allow the colonists to outdo them in politeness. This land is broad enough to give them all a farm. Mr. Ingram, who is an intelligent colored man writes: 'Those of us coming are all laboring people and willing to work. All we ask is the same encouragement strangers of other classes of people receive in a new country. And if you give us a lay out you will find that we will be of great service to your country.'”

This was in the aftermath of a massive migration of Black refugees into Kansas in 1879. They were called “Exodusters.” The Bismarck Tribune knew this, printing an article entitled “Negro Exodus” on April 5, 1879. Although the expected 'flood' turned out to be a trickle, this exchange of letters from 1882 illustrates how a Black migration into North Dakota was once a serious possibility. The St. Paul Globe would report two years later in its May 15, 1884, issue that the first colored colony in Dakota Territory had just reached the Mouse River.


May 19, 1882, was a different era. Hope was still in the air.


Dakota Datebook by Andrew Alexis Varvel

Sources & References:


Bismarck Tribune

April 5, 1879 (page 1, column 1)

May 3, 1879 (page 4, column 2)

May 19, 1882 (page 8, column 3)

This reference can be found at Chronicling America, Library of Congress.


St. Paul Globe

May 15, 1884 (page 2, column 6)

This reference can be found at Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub, Minnesota Historical Society.


Recommended Reading:

These books provide a solid introduction to “Exoduster” migration of black refugees into Kansas in 1879. They were fleeing from Bourbon oppression in a South that had been recently “redeemed” from Reconstruction.


Atheam, Robert G. In search of Canaan: Black migration to Kansas, 1879-80. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1978. 338 pages.


Painter, Nell Irvin. Exodusters: Black migration to Kansas after Reconstruction. New York: Knopf, 1976. 288 pages.

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