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African American History in New Mexico

Portraits from Five Hundred Years

Bruce A. Glasrud

Publication Year: 2013

Although their total numbers in New Mexico were never large, blacks arrived with Spanish explorers and settlers and played active roles in the history of the territory and state. Here, Bruce Glasrud assembles the best information available on the themes, events, and personages of black New Mexico history.

The contributors portray the blacks who accompanied Cabeza de Vaca, Coronado and de Vargas and recount their interactions with Native Americans in colonial New Mexico. Chapters on the territorial period examine black trappers and traders as well as review the issue of slavery in the territory and the blacks who accompanied Confederate troops and fought in the Union army during the Civil War in New Mexico. Eventually blacks worked on farms and ranches, in mines, and on railroads as well as in the military, seeking freedom and opportunity in New Mexico’s wide open spaces. A number of black towns were established in rural areas. Lacking political power because they represented such a small percentage of New Mexico’s population, blacks relied largely on their own resources and networks, particularly churches and schools.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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p. 5-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-viii

This book germinated from a series of conversations between myself and the editor-in-chief at the University of New Mexico Press, W. Clark Whitehorn. We both agreed that an anthology on the history of African Americans in New Mexico was long overdue and would be a key contribution to New Mexico...

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Introduction: Under the Radar: Blacks in New Mexico History

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pp. 1-19

In late August 1908 a Texas-born black man named George McJunkin and a neighbor spotted large bison bones protruding from the bank of the Dry Cimarron River near Folsom, New Mexico. McJunkin realized their significance but it was many years before he succeeded in interesting others...

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1: Esteban

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pp. 21-24

A peripatetic Franciscan (apparently born in Nice and hence “de Niza”), Fray Marcos had served in Central America and in Peru before making his way to Mexico.1 Fray Marcos established himself in Mexico City in 1537, the year after Cabeza de Vaca had returned from his extraordinary trek. In the wake of Cabeza...

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2: Intimacy and Empire: Indian-African Interaction in Spanish Colonial New Mexico, 1500–1800

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pp. 25-48

In 1539 Esteban de Dorantes of Azarnor, an enslaved Black Moor, ventured into Pueblo Indian territory in the vanguard of Fray Marcos de Niza’s expedition to the unexplored north. Esteban had traveled in the northern reaches of New Spain before—he, along with three Spaniards, including the...

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3: Africans and Discrimination in Colonial New Mexico: Don Pedro Bautista Pino’s Startling Statements of 1812 in Perspective

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pp. 49-55

In 1810 don Pedro Bautista Pino, an influential New Mexico resident, was elected to the Spanish Cortes. Convoked in that same year, the Cortes had granted representation to Spain’s overseas colonies in an attempt to rally imperial support against Napoleon’s threat to the Spanish throne.1 The trip from isolated New Mexico...

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4: A Law That Would Make Caligula Blush?: New Mexico Territory’s Unique Slave Code, 1859–1861

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pp. 56-84

In 1861 Congressman John A. Bingham of Ohio, a leading Republican, who would later draft the most significant parts of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1866, denounced the New Mexico slave code as a law that would have brought “blushes to the cheek[s] of Caligula.”1 But why would the legislature of the territory...

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5: African Americans with Confederate Troops in West Texas and New Mexico

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pp. 85-88

An interesting sidelight of the Confederate period in far West Texas and New Mexico was the fact that at least five officers and men brought their black servants with them. Two of these slaves were with Col. John R. Baylor’s original contingent, whereas the other three came with the “Sibley...

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6: Cathay Williams: Black Woman Soldier, 1866–1868

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pp. 89-100

On November 15, 1866, Cathay Williams became a soldier. She enlisted with the U.S. Regular Army in St. Louis, Missouri, intending on a three-year tour of duty. She had never been in the army before. She informed the recruiting officer that she was twenty-two years old and by occupation a cook. She named Independence...

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7: Civilians and Black Soldiers in New Mexico Territory, 1866–1900: A Cross-Cultural Experience

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pp. 101-110

Following the Civil War the American people regularly praised the veterans of that conflict. They held celebrations and awarded numerous accolades and honors to those citizens turned temporary soldiers. The U.S. government was generous with monuments, commemorations, and pensions. All of this...

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8: Black Communities in New Mexico

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pp. 111-123

To understand Francis Boyer’s comment and his quest for the establishment of a black community in New Mexico, you need to become familiar with a brief history of African Americans in the state. In 1856 New Mexico was still a territory and would not become a state until 1912. Even in this far-flung territory...

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9: Another White Hope Bites the Dust: The Jack Johnson–Jim Flynn Heavyweight Fight in 1912

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pp. 124-135

On December 26, 1908, at Rushcutter’s Bay, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, a heavyweight championship bout pitted a black challenger against a white champion for the first time in boxing history. The black challenger, Jack Johnson, easily defeated the white champion, Tommy Burns, before a crowd of between eighteen...

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10: Community Building on the Border: The Role of the 24th Infantry Band at Columbus, New Mexico, 1916–1922

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pp. 136-143

The black military units created by Congress immediately after the Civil War played prominent roles in settling the West. In the past two decades a number of works have recognized the contributions of these regiments; however, most have dealt primarily with the military experience of blacks on the frontier...

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11: Anita Scott Coleman: New Mexico’s “Unfinished Masterpiece”

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pp. 144-150

Beginning with the First World War and lasting to the end of the 1930s, an African American cultural reawakening occurred on the East Coast that was centered in New York City. Referred to as the Harlem Renaissance, the movement emphasized the political, social, and cultural emergence of a “New Negro.” The...

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12: New Mexico’s Black Women: Establishing Perspectives

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pp. 151-164

Until recently, most histories of the American West were based on the romantic idea of cowboys and settlers defining a uniquely American spirit on the frontier. It was a notion rooted in the writings of the historian Frederick Jackson Turner, who, in “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” (1893), argued...

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13: How Albuquerque Got Its Civil Rights Ordinance

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pp. 165-169

On September 12, 1947, the editor of the University of New Mexico school paper, The New Mexico Lobo, employing a well-known journalistic ruse, sent a reporter along with a Negro student, George Long, to a cafe near the campus, Oklahoma Joe’s. When they were refused service, the Lobo had its story. The...

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14: Between the Tracks and the Freeway: African Americans in Albuquerque

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pp. 170-185

In the summer of 1905 twenty-nine African Americans met near Niagara Falls and organized the Niagara Movement. This was the first cohesive and sustained effort by blacks to alleviate and eliminate specific racial problems in America. Eventually these radicals, who included William Monroe...

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15: Haroldie Kent Spriggs and Sammie J. Kent: Integrating a White High School in the 1950s

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pp. 186-200

Black Americans have suffered extreme prejudice in the United States, from their earliest days as English colonial slaves to, in many ways, this very day. During much of our history they suffered unjust racial prejudice from cradle (birth) to grave (death), facing segregated institutions at every stage of life until the dramatic...

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16: The Modern Civil Rights Movement in New Mexico, 1955–1975

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pp. 201-212

A discussion of the modern African American civil rights movement often starts with the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954. In many states it is seen as stimulating the drive for equality by the single largest minority in the United States prior to the...

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17: African American Leaders in Recent New Mexico Politics,1980–2010

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pp. 213-223

The civil rights era opened a great many doors for African Americans in New Mexico, but the end to troubles were far from over. Many equal rights were won, but mainstream New Mexico was not ready to hand African Americans a full portion on a silver platter. There are forty-two seats in the New Mexico...


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pp. 225-260

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 261-268


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pp. 269-271


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pp. 272-280

Back Cover

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p. 290-290

E-ISBN-13: 9780826353023
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826353016

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013