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Stephen W. Angell

black nationalist and land promoter known as “Pap,” was born into slavery in Nashville, Tennessee. Little is known about the first six decades of his life. In his old age Singleton reminisced that his master had sold him to buyers as far away as Alabama and Mississippi several times, but that each time he had escaped and returned to Nashville. Tiring of this treatment, he ran-away to Windsor, Ontario, and shortly thereafter moved to Detroit. There he quietly opened a boardinghouse for escaped slaves and supported himself by scavenging. In 1865 he came home to Edgefield, Tennessee, across the Cumberland River from Nashville, and supported himself as a cabinetmaker and carpenter.

Although Singleton loved Tennessee he did not see this state in the post Civil War era as a hospitable place for African Americans Since coffin making was part of his work he witnessed firsthand the aftermath of ...


As a young man, “Pap” Singleton escaped slavery in Nashville, where he was born and raised. Originally fleeing to Canada, he settled in Detroit, Michigan, where he harbored Fugitive Slaves until the Civil War (1861–1865) ended. Believing himself divinely chosen, he returned to Tennessee to begin his lifetime work of establishing an independent black society composed of the new freed people.

Singleton counseled ex-slaves to buy land in rural sections of Tennessee. Rebuffed by white landowners and officials, Singleton worked with W. A. Sizemore and Columbus Johnson, both former slaves, to promote migration west to Kansas. Beginning in the early 1870s, several African American families, led by Singleton, settled there. Historian John Hope Franklin has noted that when Singleton circulated such fliers as “The Advantage of Living in a Free State” throughout the American South, whites enacted laws and practices to restrict African American movement.

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