Freedom's Racial Frontier
African Americans in the Twentieth-Century West
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
424 Pages | 6 x 9 | 18 b&w illus., 3 maps, 5 table
Between 1940 and 2010, the black population of the American West grew from 710,400 to 7 million. With that explosive growth has come a burgeoning interest in the history of the African American West—an interest reflected in the remarkable range and depth of the works collected in Freedom’s Racial Frontier. Editors Herbert G. Ruffin II and Dwayne A. Mack have gathered established and emerging scholars in the field to create an anthology that links past, current, and future generations of African American West scholarship.
The volume’s sixteen chapters address the African American experience within the framework of the West as a multicultural frontier. The result is a fresh perspective on western-U.S. history, centered on the significance of African American life, culture, and social justice in almost every trans-Mississippi state. Examining and interpreting the twentieth century while mindful of events and developments since 2000, the contributors focus on community formation, cultural diversity, civil rights and black empowerment, and artistic creativity and identity. Reflecting the dynamic evolution of new approaches and new sites of knowledge in the field of western history, the authors consider its interconnections with fields such as cultural studies, literature, and sociology. Some essays deal with familiar places, while others look at understudied sites such as Albuquerque, Oahu, and Las Vegas, Nevada. By examining black suburbanization, the Information Age, and gentrification in the urban West, several authors conceive of a Third Great Migration of African Americans to and within the West.
The West revealed in Freedom’s Racial Frontier is a place where black Americans have fought—and continue to fight—to make their idea of freedom live up to their expectations of equality; a place where freedom is still a frontier for most persons of African heritage.
“A cutting-edge collection from a new generation of scholars of black western history. Its greatest strength is its fresh take on the efforts of black men and women to achieve their goals within the unique and diverse setting of the American West, including Hawaii. From the impressive introduction to the comprehensive bibliographic essay, this is a refreshingly creative and groundbreaking work that should appeal to a wide audience.”—Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, author of Sweet Freedom’s Plains: African Americans on the Overland Trails
“This collection of essays is an important source to anyone interested in the total story of the American West and American history.”—Panhandle-Plains Historical Review
“Ruffin and Mack have put together a commendable collection of essays. Freedom’s Racial Frontier makes a strong contribution to the scholarship on the modern American West and African American history. The book provides a much-needed regional look at the historical experiences of African Americans in the twentieth century. Its essays are thoroughly researched, well written, and, in many instances, highly relevant to contemporary issues. The essays are both scholarly and accessible to a wider audience. As with the essays, the two oral histories and more numerous brief topical articles are engaging and informative.”—Journal of African American History