Until recently, histories of the American West gave little evidence of the presence—let alone importance—of African Americans in the unfolding of the western frontier. There might have been a mention of Estevan, slavery, or the Dred Scott decision, but the rich and varied experience of African Americans on the Great Plains went largely unnoted. This book, the first of its kind, supplies that critical missing chapter in American history.
Originally published over the span of twenty-five years in Great Plains Quarterly, the essays collected here describe the part African Americans played in the frontier army and as homesteaders, community builders, and activists. The authors address race relations, discrimination, and violence. They tell of the struggle for civil rights and against Jim Crow, and they examine African American cultural growth and contributions as well as economic and political aspects of black life on the Great Plains. From individuals such as “Pap” Singleton, Era Bell Thompson, Aaron Douglas, and Alphonso Trent; to incidents at Fort Hays, Brownsville, and Topeka; to defining moments in government, education, and the arts—this collection offers the first comprehensive overview of the black experience on the Plains.