Crossing the Red Sea, St. Louis and the Exodus of 1879

For the October Big Muddy Speaker Series, Professor Bryan Jack discussed the journey of the ‘Exodusters” through Saint Louis and beyond.

Published: October 11, 2022

Presentation by Bryan Jack

See the presentation on YouTube!

Hosted by Missouri River Relief 

For the October Big Muddy Speaker Series, Professor Bryan Jack discussed the journey of the ‘Exodusters” through Saint Louis and beyond.

In 1879, thousands of African Americans fled the post-Reconstruction South in search of political, economic, and social opportunity in Kansas. Called “Exodusters” after the Biblical story of escape from oppression, many arrived in St. Louis destitute, and city officials refused to help. To the stranded Exodusters, St. Louis became a barrier as formidable as the Red Sea. However, through a commitment to civil rights and a remarkable display of community organization, African Americans in St. Louis came together to sustain the Exodusters’ material needs as well as provide funds to continue their journey. The Exoduster movement, and the relief efforts that supported it, provide a unique opportunity to further our understanding of St. Louis as a city, of Missouri as a state, and of African American life in an era of dramatic change.

Exodusters on St. Louis Levee
Exodusters in Saint Louis

Bryan Jack is associate professor of historical studies at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. He is the the editor of Southern History on Screen: Race and Rights, 1976–2016 and The Saint Louis African American Community and the Exodusters.  His articles have appeared in The Griot and the Councilor, and in international publications from the British Association of American Studies and American Studies of Turkey. Jack earned his PhD from Saint Louis University, a master’s degree from the University of Alabama, and a bachelor’s degree from Baker University. He lives in the city of St. Louis.

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