The First Migrants: Black Homesteaders Stake Their Claim

Earlier this year, Dr. Jacob Friefeld joined us to discuss the Homestead Act of 1862 as part of Abraham Lincoln’s legacy. He now returns to discuss the largely unknown story of Black Americans who migrated from the South to the Great Plains after Civil War to claim land through the Homestead Act. Some created Black homesteader communities, while others homesteaded alone. All sought a place where they could rise by their own talents and toil, unencumbered by Black codes, repression, and violence. In the words of one Black homesteader descendant, they found “a place they could experience real freedom,” though in a racist society that freedom could never be complete. Their quest foreshadowed the epic movement of Black people out of the South known as the Great Migration.

Dr. Jacob Friefeld is the Director of the Center for Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield. His first book , Homesteading the Plains: Toward a New History, challenges the scholarly consensus about the Homestead Act of 1862. His new book, The First Migrants: How Black Homesteaders’ Quest for Land and Freedom Heralded America’s Great Migration, tells the epic story of Black Americans homesteading in the Great Plains after the Civil War.

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Event Information

When: Wednesday, October 11, 2023 7:00 PM until 8:00 PM