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Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and the “Exodus” of Ex-Slaves to Kansas

  • June 2, 2021

Sojourner Truth was an advocate of the “Exoduster movement” of former slaves from the South to Kansas:

I have prayed so long that my people would go to Kansas, and that God would make straight the way before them. Yes, indeed! I think it is a good move for them. I believe as much in that move as I do in the moving of the children of Egypt going out to Canaan, just as much. (“Memorial” chapter of Narrative of Sojourner Truth, p. 19)

Frederick Douglass was an opponent – believing African Americans should stay in the South and fight for their rights, despite the furious backlash of post-Civil War racism and Jim Crow:

[The Exodus] is a surrender, a premature, disheartening surrender, since it would make freedom and free institutions depend upon migration rather than protection; by flight, rather than right … It leaves the whole question of equal rights on the soil of the South open and still to be settled … it is a confession of the utter unpracticability of equal rights and equal protection in any State, where those rights may be struck down by violence … The dissemination of this doctrine by the agents of emigration, cannot but do the cause of equal rights much harm. It lets the public mind down from the high ground of a great national duty, to a miserable compromise, in which wrong surrenders nothing and right everything … Does not one exodus invite another, and in advocating one do we not sustain the demand for another? …