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Reviews The Black West. By William Loren Katz. (New York: Doubleday and Com­ pany, Inc., 1971. 336 pages, $12.95.) At the end of his Introduction, William Katz tells us that “there is a need for material for schools and young readers on the black western experience. I believe that a picture and documentary his­ tory will tell this story. Unlike many a western tale, this is no campfire yarn. The pictures and documents substantiate its truth.” The author implies that his book will set the record straight, but how well does this “picture and documentary history” stand up under scrutiny? In Mark Twain Himself, A Pictorial Biography produced by Milton Meltzer (1960), Mr. Meltzer writes in his Preface that “ Of course this book cannot pretend to include every­ thing.” Perhaps the trouble with The Black West is that it tries to in­ clude everything. It is not a bad book, but it is frequently a super­ ficial book. Being part history and part a children’s book, it is neither. But its final resting place might be in high school libraries. Mr. Katz works so hard to prove his thesis — there has been no adequate treatment of the blacks in the literature of the West — that he frequently does the blacks a disservice, and frustrates his readers. T o establish a thesis at the expense of another is a ques­ tionable tactic. For example, in his Introduction he criticizes Ray Allen Billington for failing to mention “a black who achieves any­ thing or helped develop the frontier” in his Westward Expansion (1967). But in 1960 in his The Far Western Frontier, 1830-1860, Billington discusses two black mountain-men — Edward Rose and James Beckwourth. The historian will find some documents in the text without comments but with references. The children will find some ex­ cellent photographs. Mr. Katz does not use footnotes, so when his quotes are not in documents they must be taken on faith (e.g., Kenneth W. Porter, page 20, Edgeley W. Todd, page 26, and 66 Western American Literature Bernard De Voto, page 26; neither Todd nor De Voto appear in the Bibliography or Index). Mr. Katz frequently uses only that part of his material which fits his thesis (e.g., see Mary Ellen Pleasant, pages 138-139), and thereby distorts his story. On page 147 the author writes, “A recent study by historian Kenneth W. Porter . . . without giving us the title of that recent study. These ex­ amples can be multiplied many times over. Mr. Katz writes that “One of the most disgraceful chapters in U.S. Military history is the refusal to protect qualified black cadets at West Point from bias so that they might be able to concentrate on their studies” (p. 219). But the author’s treatment of the black cadets at West Point is not admirable. It is only melodramatic. On page 219 Henry Flipper, the first black graduate of West Point, is introduced; on page 220 there are photographs of Flipper and his wife and there is an excerpt from a letter from Flipper (to whom? see Index) published in The New Era, July 14, 1870; on page 221 he is referred to; on pages 310-311 (in the second of three Ap­ pendixes) there is a copy of a letter from U.S. Attorney Matt G. Reynolds (Santa Fe, N.M., January 25th, 1894) regarding “Cadet Henry Flipper’s Progress” ; on page 324, the Bibliography includes the entry: “Henry Ossian Flipper, The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878; reprinted, New York: Arno Press, 1968), together with an informative introduction by Sara Dunlap Jackson, tells the inter­ esting story of West Point’s first black graduate.” But nowhere do I find a reference to the most important book concerning the black officer: Negro Frontierman: The Western Memoirs of Henry O. Flipper, First Negro Graduate of West Point. Edited by Theodore D. Harris. (El Paso: Texas Western College Press, 1963). One of my most serious objections to this book is the author’s lack of interest in significant contributions. For example, on page 164 he reproduces the cover of a Beadle and Adams Dime Novel — Arizona Joe The Boy Pard...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 65-67
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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