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E s s a y R e v i e w “T h e L i k e o f W h i c h Is F o u n d N o w h e r e E l s e in A l l t h e W o r l d ”: P l a c i n g a n d Im a g i n i n g a n A f r i c a n A m e r i c a n W e s t M i c h a e l K. J o h n s o n W o r k s R e v i e w e d Allmendinger, Blake. ImaginingtheAfricanAmericanWest.Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. 161 pages, $49.95. Tyler, Texas Black Film Collection. DVD, G. William Jones Film and Video Collection/Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University, 2004. $250.00. Whitaker, Matthew C. Race Work: The Rise ofCivil Rights in the Urban West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. 382 pages, $35.00. Matthew Whitaker writes in Race Work that “the American West has long been narrowly labeled as a region with few if any African Americans and virtually no black history,” an area neglected by scholars of both African American and western history, in part because that history has existed outside the dominant paradigms of each field (9). As Whitaker observes, “the history of African Americans in the West is a story of urban life and ‘the struggle for racial equality,’” a history at odds with “academic and popular views of the American West” as an exceptional and egalitarian place fundamentally different from the East, replete with spectacular and rugged wilderness and empty of burdensome governmen­ tal regulations, a place where the ready availability of unclaimed land enabled “rugged Anglo American pioneers” to write their own destinies (10, 9, 9). Many African Americans, however, found that the West replicated rather than opposed eastern forms of government, the same antimiscegenation laws, the same de facto and de jure segregation, the same restrictions on land ownership, the same bigotry and discrimina­ tion. Contradicting rather than reinforcing the dominant mythology of an egalitarian and exceptional West of wilderness spaces rather than cities, of unusual freedom and democratic values rather than govemW e s t e r n A m e r i c a n L i t e r a t u r e 4 1 . 3 ( F a l l 2 0 0 6 ) : 3 3 6 - 4 4 . M i c h a e l k . J o h n s o n 3 3 7 ALFRED N.SACK p re se n ts JULY J0NE5 SPENCER W IL L IA M S Lobby card from Juke Joint (1947). Courtesy of John Kisch. Separate Cinema Archive®. mental limitations, African American experience has been ignored, un­ noticed, or deemed unimportant to the history of the development of the American West. Scholars of African American history have, in their own way, con­ tributed to this “scholarly vacuum” by focusing on national issues and leaders and often overlooking the “local ‘race men’ and ‘race women’” whose contributions to regional civil rights struggles helped feed prog­ ress at the national level (9). Recent scholarship such as Whitaker’s Race Work, Quintard Taylor and Shirley Ann Wilson Moore’s anthol­ ogy African American Women Confront the West (2003), and Taylor’s In Search of the Racial Frontier (1998) have attempted to redress the neglect African American western history has received from both fields. All three books demonstrate how regional activism in the West set precedents for later national civil rights legislation and how even small African American minority populations have had significant impacts on the social and political development of western towns and cities. Blake Allmendinger’s Imagining the African American West likewise emphasizes the importance of not subsuming multiple experiences into a single story of “typical” western (or national) experience. As Allmendinger 3 3 8 W e s t e r n A m e r i c a n L i t e r a t u r e f a l l 2 0 0...


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