In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990


A groundbreaking history of African Americans' role in the development of the American West.

The American West is mistakenly known as a region with few African Americans and virtually no black history. In Search of the Racial Frontier challenges that view in a rich, complex chronicle of western African Americans that begins in 1528 with the Spanish explorer Esteban's arrival in Texas, followed by hundreds of Spanish-speaking blacks.

In 1848 English-speaking blacks arrived -- as slaves -- creating the nucleus of post-Civil War communities. Thousands of African Americans thereafter migrated to the high plains while others drove cattle up the Chisholm Trail or served on remote army outposts. Mormon slave Bridget "Biddy" Mason reached Utah in 1847, gained freedom in California, and in 1872 founded Los Angeles's first black church. The West's black civil rights movement began in San Francisco during the Civil War when women challenged the city's streetcar segregation.

This richly peopled story carries forward to the twentieth century when World War II migration increased black populations in western cities tenfold and intensified the region's civil rights movement during the 1960s, paving the way for black success in Western politics and a surging interest in multiculturalism.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1998


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