The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994

Book Reviews

the QA&P strangely lived on as a subsidiary of the BN for a few years. Finally, the
valiant little company succumbed to BN efforts to divert most of its remaining
traffic to the Santa Fe and to trucks between Floydada and Paducah. In 1981 the
ICC abandonment of track between Floydada and Paducah and the QA&P
passed into history. It survived as a BN spur between Quanah and Paducah.
Don Hofsommer has done a scholarly and fond history of the Quanah Route.
He had long-term access to the company archives at Quanah and took from
them, and many other sources, the stuff of a beguiling story of nineteenth-centu-
ry empire-building doggedly pursued in the first eight decades of the twentieth.
The book is a fascinating slice of life and business practices in rural Texas dur-
ing those years, told in terms of one small railroad. Like his The Southern Pacific,
190ox-985 (Texas A&M University Press, 1986), The Quanah Route should be of
interest to scholars and rail buffs alike.
Austin ROBERT J. MACDONALD
Black Towns and Profit: Promotion and Development in the Trans-Appalachian West,
x877-915. By Kenneth Marvin Hamilton. (Urbana: University of Illinois
Press, 1991. Pp. xii+185. Acknowledgments, introduction, black-and-white
photographs, appendices, bibliography, index. $29.95.)
Kenneth Marvin Hamilton, an associate professor of history at Southern
Methodist University, has written a revisionist treatment of the rise and decline
of the post-Reconstruction black town phenomenon. His interpretations, howev-
er, are certain to provoke debate. Hamilton insists that factors other than race,
such as entrepreneurship and the profit motive, were critical to the creation of
black towns, and that the failure to win railroad stations often spelled decline.
One refrain echoes in the five chapters detailing the histories of the towns of
Nicodemus, Kansas; Mound Bayou, Mississippi; Langston City and Boley, Okla-
homa; and Allensworth, California. Hamilton insists that "other than the few dif-
ferences produced by racial composition," the saga of the all-black towns "could
have been that of any other settlement in the Great Plains or Trans-Appalachian
West" (p. 35). With specific reference to Mound Bayou he argues that "apart
from the race of its citizens," the place "is almost indistinguishable from any oth-
er small Mississippi town" (p. 84). And near the end of the study, Hamilton pro-
claims that "America's racial ideology produced few notable differences in the
early evolution of black towns and their white and biracial counterparts" (p.
152).
I suspect Hamilton is being ingenious in moving the pendulum so far away
from a focus on the desire of black settlers and developers to escape white
racism and southern terrorism. Previous scholars have maintained that race was
the most significant force fueling the establishment and peopling of trans-
Appalachian black towns. Hamilton is also inviting controversy with his assertion
that the black towns were "neither insignificant nor of special importance" when
viewed as an integral part of the frontier urban settlement process (p. 1). Even
so, his thesis merits serious consideration as it is destined to engender renewed

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117154/. Accessed April 16, 2014.