Betti VanEpps-Taylor

Hiding in Plain Sight: The African American Experience in the American West

The new emphasis on diversity has broadened our understanding of the African American role in shaping our nation, especially in the American West. From the first black slaves in the lead mines of Louisiana territory to York, the mountain men, Buffalo Soldiers and fort workers, to the adventurers, service workers, farmers, ranchers, entrepreneurs, artists and professionals who came later, black history and culture remain alive and well west of the Rockies. This presentation highlights the black experience through the lens of one or more of these groups, or the lives of interesting and significant individuals, including York, the Buffalo Soldiers, early film maker and pioneer Oscar Micheaux, small agricultural colonies, Pullman porters, or an array of “strong sisters” who came west to make new lives. The presentation also can offer a window on present-day western diversity and consider how it has changed and will continue to change and enrich Western life.