Their exodus was to Indiana, not to Liberia

“In 1851, Indiana famously had adopted a Constitution that made it illegal for blacks to migrate into the state. One of the backers of the ‘black law’ was Putnam County delegate A.C. Stevenson.

“ ‘He thought blacks should go back to Liberia,’ [Ball State University history professor Nicole Etcheson] said. ‘He said this in his convention address, that blacks in Indiana have the mistaken notion that this is their home.’

“But by 1879, Stevenson was one of the Republicans in Putnam County courting African-Americans to come to Indiana as laborers, a total reversal of his earlier position.

“By the 1880 Census, about 500 blacks had turned up in Putnam County from North Carolina — where the Ku Klux Klan was emerging — as part of the ‘Exoduster Movement’ or ‘Exodus of 1879.’

“ ‘This is the big change that occurs, stripping away Indiana’s status as a black law state,’ Etcheson concluded. ‘The Civil War doesn’t entirely eradicate white supremacy in Indiana, but Indiana… now has to accept the migration of free people into the state and accord them civil rights and allow them to vote. And now inviting blacks into the state, this I think is the real change that the Civil War brought to Indiana.’ ”

— From “Was black Civil War soldier poisoned?” by Seth Slabaugh in the Muncie (Indiana) Star Press (Dec. 29)

Here’s more about “The Exodusters of Putnam County,”  highlighting North Carolinian Dow Whittaker.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.