Between 1940 and 2010, the black population of the American West grew from 710,400 to 7 million. With that explosive growth has come a burgeoning interest in the history of the African American West—an interest reflected in the remarkable range and depth of the works collected in Freedom’s Racial Frontier. Editors Herbert G. Ruffin II and Dwayne A. Mack have gathered established and emerging scholars in the field to create an anthology that links past, current, and future generations of African American West scholarship.
The volume’s sixteen chapters address the African American experience within the framework of the West as a multicultural frontier. The result is a fresh perspective on western-U.S. history, centered on the significance of African American life, culture, and social justice in almost every trans-Mississippi state. Examining and interpreting the twentieth century while mindful of events and developments since 2000, the contributors focus on community formation, cultural diversity, civil rights and black empowerment, and artistic creativity and identity. Reflecting the dynamic evolution of new approaches and new sites of knowledge in the field of western history, the authors consider its interconnections with fields such as cultural studies, literature, and sociology. Some essays deal with familiar places, while others look at understudied sites such as Albuquerque, Oahu, and Las Vegas, Nevada. By examining black suburbanization, the Information Age, and gentrification in the urban West, several authors conceive of a Third Great Migration of African Americans to and within the West.
The West revealed in Freedom’s Racial Frontier is a place where black Americans have fought—and continue to fight—to make their idea of freedom live up to their expectations of equality; a place where freedom is still a frontier for most persons of African heritage.