Multiculturalism is unusual in westerns

Multiculturalism sounds like a  modern concept. Most westerns are about white men. Westerns rarely mention Black people, whilst they usually depict Native Americans as either evil or victims. My novel The Cowgirl Murders features both Black and Native Americans as players in the drama. As the title implies, women also feature as more than decoration or ‘prizes’.

The cover of the coming audiobook The Cowgirl Murders. Do you find multiculturalism here?

The cover of the coming audiobook The Cowgirl Murders. Do you find multiculturalism here?

But how realistic was that? I have written about women in the Wild West in another blog. Now, here are some facts about Black and Native Americans.

Multiculturalism and law enforcement

Some Black Americans served in law enforcement roles in the Wild West, although their numbers were small compared to white lawmen. Here are a few notable examples:

  1. Bass Reeves: Born into slavery, Reeves became one of the first Black U.S. Deputy Marshals west of the Mississippi River. He served primarily in Arkansas and the Oklahoma Territory, earning a reputation as a skilled lawman who arrested over 3,000 felons during his career.
  2. Willie Kennard: Kennard was appointed as a town marshal in Yankee Hill, Colorado, in the late 1870s. He gained fame for his quick draw and his ability to maintain order in the rough mining town.
  3. Morgan Earp: Although not a lawman himself, Morgan Earp, brother of the famous lawman Wyatt Earp, had a deputy named John Joshua Webb, who was of mixed African American and Native American ancestry. Webb fought alongside the Earps in the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Did equality extend to Native Americans?

There were at least some Native American Lawmen:

  1. Bly Bushy Head: A member of the Cherokee Nation, Bushy Head served as a deputy U.S. Marshal in the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in the late 1800s. He was known for his tracking skills and his ability to navigate both Native American and white societies.
  2. Sam Sixkiller: Sixkiller, a Cherokee, was appointed as a U.S. Deputy Marshal in the Indian Territory in 1875. He gained a reputation as a fearless lawman and later served as the High Sheriff of the Cherokee Nation.
  3. Frank Dalton: Dalton, who was part Cherokee, served as a U.S. Deputy Marshal in the Indian Territory in the 1880s. He was the brother of the infamous Dalton Gang, a group of outlaws, but chose to pursue a career in law enforcement instead.

These examples demonstrate that despite facing significant racial discrimination and obstacles, some Black Americans and Native Americans did serve in law enforcement roles in the Wild West. Their stories contribute to a more diverse and complex understanding of life on the American frontier.

Pushback against multiculturalism

In The Cowgirl Murders, some characters talked of restoring the Confederacy. Was that fact or fiction? There were several attempts and movements which aimed at restoring the Confederacy or its ideals after its defeat in 1865. Some of the most notable include:

  1. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK): Founded in 1865, the KKK was a white supremacist organization that used violence and intimidation to oppose Reconstruction and the advancement of African American rights. The group often invoked Confederate symbolism and nostalgia.
  2. The Lost Cause: This was an ideological movement that sought to portray the Confederate cause as heroic and justified. Lost Cause proponents glorified the Confederacy, minimized slavery’s role in the Civil War, and promoted white supremacy.
  3. Confederate monuments: The construction of Confederate monuments and memorials peaked in the early 20th century as part of the Lost Cause movement. These monuments were often used to promote Confederate ideals and intimidate African Americans.
  4. Redeemers and Jim Crow laws: In the late 1800s, Southern Democrats known as “Redeemers” regained control of Southern state governments and implemented Jim Crow laws, which enforced racial segregation and disenfranchised African Americans. This was probably a way to restore the racial hierarchy of the Confederacy.
  5. Neo-Confederate groups: In the modern era, various neo-Confederate groups have emerged, such as the League of the South and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. These groups often promote Confederate heritage, states’ rights, and sometimes white nationalist ideologies.

It is important to note that the motivation for these attempts to restore the Confederacy was largely racism and a desire to maintain white supremacy. They had long-lasting and damaging effects on African Americans and American society as a whole. Thus my fictional hero, Davy Reece, and his friends were not wrong to fear an attempt at restoring the Confederacy.

 

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