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Expectations of Equality: A History of Black Westerners

ISBN: 978-0-88295-284-0
247 pages
February 2012, ©2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Expectations of Equality: A History of Black Westerners (0882952846) cover image

In this concise and engaging new volume, the latest in our growing Western History Series, Professor Broussard examines how African Americans over the course of nearly five centuries attempted to find their place in the states and territories west of the ninety-eighth meridian. Although black westerners, like white immigrants or native-born whites, defy easy characterization because they came to the West for a variety of reasons, blacks have shared certain commonalities with these groups. The majority of African Americans who settled in the West saw the region as a place where they could fashion a better life for themselves or their families. Some naively viewed the West as an oasis, a place free of racial or class restrictions. While many white immigrants, native-born whites, Hispanics, and Asians also saw the West as a place of opportunity, the experiences of African Americans differed profoundly from whites, people who never faced such a pervasive pattern of discrimination based solely on their race.

In addition to covering central themes and important figures, Expectations of Equality tells the stories of every-day African American men and women, persons who lived in the West from the early 1500s until the turn of the twenty-first century. Many of them led ordinary lives that are difficult to reconstruct in detail–working, raising families, attending church, and educating their children. Yet some of them forged colorful careers as scouts and mountain men, Buffalo Soldiers, businesswomen, athletes, activists, and politicians, their stories helping to make Expectations of Equality the perfect choice as supplementary reading—not only for courses in the history of the U.S. West, but also for survey courses in United States and African American history.

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Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

Suggested Readings xvii

CHAPTER ONE Black Settlers 1

New Spain 3

Hawaii 7

California 8

Texas 11

Employment: opportunity and Restrictions 17

Civil War 20

Suggested Readings 25

CHAPTER TWO The Era of Reconstruction 26

Education 28

Politics 31

The End of Reconstruction 38

Buffalo Soldiers 40

Cowboys 46

Farmers 48

African American Communities 51

Women 54

Conclusion57

Suggested Readings 58

CHAPTER THREE Urban Communities, 1910—1940 60

Employment 62

The Entertainment Industry 68

African American Businesses 71

Housing 72

World War I 74

Racial Tensions 76

Struggles for Justice 78

The Great Depression 84

Conclusion 93

Suggested Readings 94

CHAPTER FOUR World War II 96

On the Move, In Search of Work 97

Civil Rights and the Military 106

Challenging Discrimination on the Job 115

Fighting Discrimination in Housing 118

Conclusion 126

Suggested Readings 127

CHAPTER FIVE New Expectations, New Frustrations, 1945—1970 129

Postwar Opportunity 130

Civil Rights 132

Sports and Entertainment 148

Urban Violence 155

Black Power 160

Conclusion 164

Suggested Readings 165

CHAPTER SIX The Modern Era: The Search for Equity 167

Political Success 168

Socioeconomic Challenges 173

Education 180

Social Marginalization 185

Conclusion 193

Suggested Readings 194

Epilogue 195

Bibliographical Essay 202

Index 238

Photographs follow pages 59, 166

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Albert S. Broussard is professor of History and the Cornerstone Faculty Fellow in the department of History at Texas A&M University. A former president of the Oral History Association, he has published Black San Francisco: The Struggle for Racial Equality in the West, 1900—1954 (1993) and African American Odyssey: The Stewarts, 1853-1963 (1998).

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“A very readable work, one that combines the human interest of biography with discussions of broad trends. Its bibliographies provide a foundation for deeper study. It would be useful as the black text in a multi-cultural U.S. or western history course.”  (Lawrence B. de Graaf, Teaching History, Fall 2012)

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