This Week in Texas Methodist History July 17
A. M. E. Bryan District Conference Embroiled in Exodus Controversy, July 1879
One of the most interesting aspects of the post-Civil War era is the “Exodus” of African Americans from the former states of the Confederacy to the agricultural lands being opened to settlement by the newly constructed railroads. Many African Americans chose to leave Texas and the rest of the southern states and start new lives in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. The Plains lands offered a chance for ownership rather than tenancy and crops other than cotton. Cotton culture had been based upon slavery, and at least a few former enslaved persons wanted nothing to do with King Cotton.
Naturally the railroads promoted the Exodus since they stood to benefit from land sales and the prospect of shipping the agricultural products produced on the new farms.
In July 1879 the Bryan District AME Conference witnessed a debate on whether preachers should encourage the Exodus.
One of the preachers offered a resolution saying that preachers should be discouraged from promoting the Exodus. He argued in favor of the motion. His main arguments were that Northern men, including the railroad tycoon Jay Gould who was promoting the scheme, could not be trusted to have the best interest of African Americans. The second speaker defended the record of Northern men in helping the freedmen. The third speaker carried the day. He claimed that the advancement of the freemen depended less upon geography and more on their efforts at self improvement wherever they lived. That argument carried the day and the motion passed.