Black Homesteaders

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3 minutes, 13 seconds

This video is an introduction to how families took part in the Homestead Act of 1862 to forge promising futures for generations to come.

six members of the Williams Family
The Williams family, headed by Charles Williams (front left), is known as the first family of Nicodemus. Neil Henry (back center) was the first person born in Nicodemus.


The promise of land brought homesteaders across the nation. Many black homesteaders came in groups or colonies. The homesteaders created all-black or mostly-black self-governing rural communities. The histories of these communities combine national and regional themes which reveal new dimensions about slavery, black migration, education, liberty, and the earliest iterations of what we now refer to as the Civil Rights Movement.

"This is a deeply American story, a story of migration, risk taking, immense toil, hardship, sacrifice, courage in the face of long odds, disappointment, joy, and for many, triumph. It is above all an account of human persistence and achivement."

- Black Homesteaders in the Great Plains


Historic Photos & Papers

Learn more about the lives of black homesteaders through photographs and documents related to their lives including homesteading case files stored at the National Archives.

Explore Primary Documents!

The Black Homesteaders Project

This project began as a Historic Resources Study for the National Park Service by the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The researchers at UNL have been studying six black homesteading communities in six Great Plains states: Nicodemus, Kansas; DeWitty, Nebraska; Sully County, South Dakota; Empire, Wyoming; Dearfield, Colorado; and Blackdom, New Mexico.

The Black Homesteaders Project has expanded to include volunteers and park employees working to interpret and share the stories of black homesteaders across the United States.


Black Homesteaders

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