Friday, February 5, 2016

Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West by Lillian Schlissel

During an informal survey I conducted this week within our school library, I learned that 100% of the students I currently serve did not know that 25% of American cowboys in the 19th century were of African descent.  Black Frontiers provides the visual evidence that students desired to substantiate this claim.  Chapters on homesteaders and mountain men were of less interest, so I strongly suggest introducing this text with the aforementioned historical photographs or with the chapter on Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, on page 31.  The brief chapter ends with a photograph of Love after he changed lifestyles and career paths to become a Pullman porter in 1890, which can also spark conversations about the development of the railways, the socio-economic opportunities at that time, and career choices.  This book, along with Hoose’s Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice will have students wondering how truth is uncovered when history is investigated and written.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Click here for PBS’ middle school & high school lesson plans on African Americans in the West which is rich with additional resource suggestions.

Schlissel, Lillian.  Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West.  New York:  Aladdin Paperbacks, 2000.  Print.

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