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Imagining the African American West

Blake Allmendinger

Publication Year: 2005

The literature of the African American West is the last racial discourse of the region that remains unexplored. Blake Allmendinger addresses this void in literary and cultural studies with Imagining the African American West—the first comprehensive study of African American literature on the early frontier and in the modern urban American West.
 
Allmendinger charts the terrain of African American literature in the West through his exploration of novels, histories, autobiographies, science fiction, mysteries, formula westerns, melodramas, experimental theater, and political essays, as well as rap music and film. He examines the histories of James P. Beckwourth and Oscar Micheaux; slavery, the Civil War, and the significance of the American frontier to blacks; and the Harlem Renaissance, the literature of urban unrest, rap music, black noir, and African American writers, including Toni Morrison and Walter Mosley. His study utilizes not only the works of well-known African American writers but also some obscure and neglected works, out-of-print books, and unpublished manuscripts in library archives.
 
Much of the scholarly neglect of the “Black West” can be blamed on how the American West has been imagined, constructed, and framed in scholarship to date. In his study, Allmendinger provides the appropriate theoretical, cultural, and historical contexts for understanding the literature and suggests new directions for the future of black western literature.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Contents

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pp. v-

Illustrations

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pp. vii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-

I would like to thank the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies for supporting my research in 2000 and 2001 while I was working in residence at the Huntington Library. ...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xix

Did you know that an African American1 cowboy invented the sport known as steer wrestling? Bill Pickett introduced the sport while performing in rodeos in the early twentieth century. After wrestling a steer to the ground, he would bite the animal's lip, paralyzing the steer and forcing it to surrender to his control.2 ...

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1. Beckwourth's Pass

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pp. 1-12

In 1528, Esteban, a slave owned by a Spanish explorer, became the first person of African heritage to enter what would later become known as the American West. Over the course of the next three hundred years, other people of African heritage would come to the region, arriving by various routes, and some would play ...

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2. The Pioneering Adventures of Oscar Micheaux

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pp. 13-32

Between 1919 and 1948, Oscar Micheaux produced, directed, and distributed more than forty feature-length films. Although his status as a pioneer in early African American cinema has been justly acknowledged, the films themselves, more often than not, have been damned with faint praise. Joseph A. Young, Micheaux's ...

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3. Slavery, Secession, and Uncivil War

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pp. 33-45

During the nineteenth century, many Americans settled on the western frontier. Although African Americans were part of this trend, they represented a minority in statistical terms. Those in the South were more likely to immigrate to the North or Midwest.1 Others preferred leaving the states. Some started colonies, ...

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4. The Significance of the Frontier in the New Negro Renaissance

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pp. 46-65

The New Negro Renaissance refers to a flourishing movement of African American artistic expression that occurred in Harlem in the early decades of the twentieth century. Although the Renaissance was considered an eastern urban phenomenon, the movement included a significant number of artists who traced their roots ...

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5. Hip Hopalong Cassidy: Cowboys and Rappers

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pp. 66-83

The first fictional "black" western hero appears in Deadwood Dick, the Prince of the Road; or, The Black Rider of the Black Hills (1877). In this first installment in a series of dime novels written by Edward L. Wheeler, a young eastern gentleman is cheated out of his rightful inheritance. He moves to the frontier ...

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6. Black Noir

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pp. 84-98

Early African American literature explores the mystery of the human condition. In his autobiography, Frederick Douglass describes being taken from his mother in infancy, never meeting his father, and not knowing the date of his birth, "never having seen any authentic record containing it."1 Douglass was born into ...

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7. Everybody Comes to California to Die

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pp. 99-114

In the twenty-first century, most African Americans in the West reside in metropolitan areas with large populations. More African Americans live in California than anywhere else in the region, with the greatest percentage of those making their homes in Los Angeles.1 While the city continues to attract African Americans ...

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8. Women Rewriting History

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pp. 115-130

In 1963, a young woman named Billy, living in a small Texas town, becomes pregnant with a married man's child. Desperate, she tries to raise money to pay for an illegal abortion. Then she learns that her mother's grave site has been sold to developers who plan to bulldoze the property. Remembering that her mother ...

Notes

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pp. 131-158

Index

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pp. 159-161


E-ISBN-13: 9780803252172
E-ISBN-10: 080325217X

Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Race and Ethnicity in the American West