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

Schlissel, Lillian. Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West. 1995. 80pp. Lexile 1090.

After the Civil War, many blacks moved West, hoping for a better life.  This beautifully designed book introduces a range of individuals and groups that pursued this often dangerous goal.  Among them is Jim Beckwourth, a mountain man famous for his trapping and prowess as a guide.  Black cowboys Nat Love and Bill Pickett each have a short chapter as does “Stagecoach Mary” Fields, a women who became a stagecoach driver at age fifty.  Less showy but also important were the black homesteaders and business people who formed communities in the West. Black-and-white photographs make the past more immediate in this attractive book about a lesser-known aspect of the West.

Fiction Tie-in:  In Black Storm Comin' by Diane Lee Wilson, a fine adventure story set just before the Civil War, a biracial adolescent boy whose white father has run off must take care of his ailing mother and his younger siblings on a wagon train heading West.  Colton's mother, who is black, urges her son to ride ahead to Sacramento to deliver freedom papers to her enslaved sister in there.  How does he hope to get to California?  By becoming a rider for the Pony Express.   A terrific story with plenty of action alongside serious issues.