One historical area where African-American involvement is frequently overlooked is in the development of the American West. Historian William Loren Katz's newly updated and reprinted work The Black West thoroughly corrects this oversight. Katz's pioneering volume covers every phase of African-American life out West, from fur trading and homesteading to serving as scouts, guides and explorers to the military campaigns of the Buffalo Soldiers. First published in 1971 and now in its fifth edition, The Black West has an improved photo archive, offering more rare shots of black riders, ropers, cavalry members and ranchers, and includes a fresh section on black women on the last frontier. Katz also touches on such areas as black participation in rodeos and the creation of western films designed for African-American audiences. While longtime fans of westerns have always known who Nat Love, aka Deadwood Dick, and Mary Field, aka Stagecoach Mary, were, The Black West provides new information for those fooled by John Wayne films and TV shows like Gunsmoke into thinking only whites wielded six-guns and broke broncos.
Ron Wynn writes for the Nashville City Paper and other publications.