July 13, 2024

Black Entrepreneur History

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Nicodemus, Kansas – Town Founded by Formerly Enslaved African Americans

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived African Americans who were formerly enslaved, that went on to migrate from the South into the state of Kansas where they founded a fully functioning black city called Nicodemus, Kansas in 1877.

Nicodemus, Kansas is a black town founded by African Americans, located West of the Mississippi River. Formerly enslaved African Americans were leaving the South in search of a much better life of their own, and it was West of the Mississippi where some of them would discover and build their own community post the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation which set them free legally.

Some decades prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, there were battles, sometimes bloody battles, about whether or not the land should be reserved for African Americans who were free or if the land, now known as the state of Kansas, would be a state where African Americans would be enslaved. It was after the Civil War was over, that it was finally determined that the state would be free because slavery was abolished.

It was during the late 1870s was when African Americans moved into this new land with much success, determined to start new and fresh for themselves and their families. At the start, there were about two hundred inhabitants north of the Solomon River and halfway between Stockton and Hill City, located on an elevated plain with a very fertile valley[2]. These inhabitants began to build immediately, homes, stores and much more.

The city of Nicodemus was complete with several water wells and stone quarries great for building homes and buildings[2]. As their economy grew, so did the city, becoming well organized and financially stable. They had newspapers, sports teams, parlors and stores and even a post office and bank. Some of the black-owned businesses include:

  • The Nicodemus Brass Band
  • Foster Williams Grocery Store
  • The Nicodemus Enterprise
  • FL Lewin Farm Machinery
  • Bank of Nicodemus
  • Milliner (Hat Makers/Designer) – Mrs. M.A. Warner
  • Young & Craven Store (complete with lawn and garden, groceries and retail clothing), founded by JT Young and Joseph Craven.
  • City Meat Market, owner James Groze
  • Jones & Lowery Attorneys at Law
  • Music Teacher – Nettie J Craig
  • The Gibson House Hotel – Mrs. Eliza Smith Owner
  • J.H. Rinehart Drugstore

Elections were held, and Nicodemus gained what all African Americans needed – political voting power. It was this power that pushed some of the first African American politicians in office from within Kansas. Nicodemous, Kansas became a wonderful place for African Americans to be at rest in their own community.

Unfortunately, when the railroad station failed to come through the town, this stifled the growth of the community[1], but yet, the community still stands. It’s smaller than a century ago, but is an African American landmark which proves the movement and establishment of African Americans in the USA. Now, there is a Nicodemus National Historic Site and Landmark, and if visited, there may even be a chance for anyone to meet the descendants of the first founders because some are still there.


  1. https://www.nps.gov/articles/nicodemus.htm
  2. Western Cyclone, Nicodemus, Kansas · Friday, June 24, 1887