The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

need for more work on domestic servants. Historians may care little about the
background of archeological theory. Creating Freedom, however, remains a signal
accomplishment as Wilkie literally digs out her sources and tries extremely hard
to discern their meanings.
Baylor Universzty Rebecca Sharpless
African Americans on the Western Frontzer. Edited by Monroe Lee Billington and
Roger D. Hardaway. (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1998. Pp.
vii+275. Introduction, appendix, contributors, index. ISBN 0-87081-491-5.
$27.50, cloth.)
Monroe Lee Billington and Roger D. Hardaway have put together a collection
of essays on the history of African Americans in the West, from the Compromise
of 1850 to the admission to the union in 1912 of the last two states of the lower
forty-eight. The editors define the West rather broadly to include all states whose
territory touches or lies west of the i ooth meridian. (They acknowledge that sev-
eral states west of the Mississippi River, but east of the iooth meridian find their
way into this study.) The purpose of this volume is rather straightforward-to
provide in one volume a collection of essays that will provide a comprehensive
overview of the African American experience in the West. Billlington and Hard-
away also have a vision of this black experience that some may question. While
they embrace the multicultural nature of the West that has come to the fore-
front in the New Western History of the last three decades, and while they ac-
knowledge that racial prejudice and discrimination have existed throughout the
West, they insist that "the experiences of most black westerners were essentially
the same as those of most whites," and that, with some exceptions, "the western
frontier generally afforded African Americans a substantial measure of equality,
the freedom to live their lives as they chose, and the opportunity to become eco-
nomically successful" (p. 5).
African Americans on the Western Frontier consists of an introduction and four-
teen essays. The introduction and two essays, one on the buffalo soldiers and a
detailed and comprehensive bibliographical essay, were written for this volume
by the editors. The remaining essays were previously published, between 1969
and 1991. Most of these survey different aspects of the African American pres-
ence in the West, such as that of the buffalo soldiers, or of black cowboys. These
essays provide valuable information but focus more on bringing African Ameri-
cans into western thinking than analyzing the African American experience in
the West. The strength of these essays is that they cover the entire region and
the entire time period, examining a range of topics from slavery in the West to
African American women in western prisons. More interesting are a group of an-
alytical essays that look in more depth at the experience of blacks in specific lo-
cations, times, and circumstances. Among the best of these are Newell G.
Binghust's analysis of how the presence and shifting attitude towards slavery in
antebellum Utah reflected the larger political interests of the Mormons, and
Robert A. Campbell's insightful study of African American labor in the western
Washington coal mines, both as strike-breakers and as self-aware workers at-
tempting to survive in a racially hostile work place. As in all studies of this type,

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed November 25, 2014.