Expectations of Equality: A History of Black Westerners

Expectations of Equality: A History of Black Westerners

Expectations of Equality: A History of Black Westerners

Expectations of Equality: A History of Black Westerners

Synopsis

In this concise and engaging new volume, the latest in our growing Western History Series, Professor Broussard examines how African Americans over the course of nearly five centuries attempted to find their place in the states and territories west of the ninety-eighth meridian. Although black westerners, like white immigrants or native-born whites, defy easy characterization because they came to the West for a variety of reasons, blacks have shared certain commonalities with these groups. The majority of African Americans who settled in the West saw the region as a place where they could fashion a better life for themselves or their families. Some naively viewed the West as an oasis, a place free of racial or class restrictions. While many white immigrants, native-born whites, Hispanics, and Asians also saw the West as a place of opportunity, the experiences of African Americans differed profoundly from whites, people who never faced such a pervasive pattern of discrimination based solely on their race.

In addition to covering central themes and important figures, Expectations of Equality tells the stories of every-day African American men and women, persons who lived in the West from the early 1500s until the turn of the twenty-first century. Many of them led ordinary lives that are difficult to reconstruct in detail-working, raising families, attending church, and educating their children. Yet some of them forged colorful careers as scouts and mountain men, Buffalo Soldiers, businesswomen, athletes, activists, and politicians, their stories helping to make Expectations of Equality the perfect choice as supplementary reading--not only for courses in the history of the U.S. West, but also for survey courses in United States and African American history.

Excerpt

The history of people of African descent in the West predates the arrival of the first recorded African slaves in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 by approximately nine decades. Esteban de Dorantes, an African slave, sailed west with the earliest Spanish settlers through the Gulf of Mexico before local Indians captured him near Galveston Island. Numerous mixed-race African men and women followed in Esteban’s footsteps over the course of the next century and settled in the vast Spanish empire in North America known as New Spain. Although these men and women lived under the purview of Spanish law, they intermarried with Europeans, Indians, and other mixedrace peoples, raised families, helped to establish schools, churches and communities, and served as scouts and soldiers. Spanish officials either widely disregarded or enforced haphazardly Spanish laws that discouraged miscegenation, or race-mixing, for Africans, Indians, and Spaniards intermarried and mingled openly for centuries.

“The American West is a product of conquest and of the mixing of diverse groups of people,” the historian Richard White observed in his important book, “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own”: A New History of the American West. My book argues, in this vein, that African Americans also have comprised part of the region’s rich diversity, despite their small numbers relative to other racial and ethnic groups in the West. More specifically, black westerners were only one of many racial minorities who suffered discrimination, an abridgement of their citizenship rights, and intermittent . . .

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