IN SEARCH OF THE RACIAL FRONTIER by Quintard Taylor

IN SEARCH OF THE RACIAL FRONTIER

African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A thoroughly researched and well-written account of the African-American contribution to the shaping of the west. Taylor (History/Univ. of Oregon) both provides much new information about African-Americans in the western US and recounts well-known stories. As an instance of the latter, he retells the familiar tale of Estevan, the Moorish servant who in 1529, accompanying Cabeza de Vaca, was the first non-Native American to glimpse the Southwest. After him followed other Africans. In the Spanish colonies of New Mexico, they were accepted as equals--if, that is, they could afford the cost of a royal certificate that ``cleansed'' them of their supposedly impure origins. It was more difficult to attain equality among the Anglo pioneers, writes Taylor; when Texas was a Mexican outpost, blacks could own property, but with the onset of the war of independence (and many blacks fought on the side of Sam Houston and company), they found that they themselves were property once more. When the doctrine of Manifest Destiny lured the US westward, slavery did not tag along (except in Utah). But neither did equality gain a firm toehold, not even in areas where African-American communities were well established, notably California, where thousands of blacks had entered the goldfields to seek their fortune. In other parts of the West, African- Americans also settled in numbers and formed middle-class communities, notably in Helena, Mont., and Topeka, Kans.--and were grudgingly accepted in many places, actively discriminated against in others. But, as one Georgia-born black resident of Phoenix, Ariz., remarked in 1916, ``At least they don't lynch you here, like they did back there.'' Taylor divides his attention evenly between the 19th and 20th centuries, making this a highly useful survey volume for college courses--and a work of value to general readers. (60 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-393-04105-0
Page count: 508pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997




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