How many African Americans filed homestead claims in the Great Plains and successfully obtained their land patents? Previous scholars have ventured conjectures on the number, using contemporary news accounts and similarly incomplete and flawed sources. The General Land Office homesteading records do not identify a claimant’s race, so to count black homesteaders one must crossreference homestead files with other records such as the census, a tedious and labor-intensive task. This study undertakes the first systematic accounting based on cross-referencing in eight Great Plains states. We find that in these states more than 1,800 black claimants successfully proved up. If we also add Oklahoma, it is likely that more than 3,400 black claimants homesteaded in the Great Plains. They gained ownership of nearly 650,000 acres of land. Counting claimants’ family members, who typically made crucial contributions to the homestead’s success, more than 14,600 black people lived in families of successful homesteaders. Today there are probably between 100,000 and 250,000 living descendants of the original black homesteaders.


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pp. 223-241
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