AfriGeneas Western Frontier Forum
New Book on the Western Frontier
Black Gun, Silver Star
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“Art Burton has resurrected a heroic Black U. S. Deputy Marshal that thieves and outlaws in the Indian Territory could not kill but was practically eliminated by scholars of frontier history.”—Bruce T. Fisher, Curator of African American History, Oklahoma Historical Society.
“Art Burton’s extensive research for Black Gun, Silver Star fleshes out the fascinating life story and exploits of a former slave who became one of the most famous lawmen in the Indian Territory days of “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker.”—William Black, Superintendent Fort Smith National Historic Site.
“This is a book that should become mandatory reading for any student of American Frontier history. Black Gun, Silver Star not only answers questions about Bass Reeves, the man, but it also provides insight into the incredible courage and extraordinary skill required in nineteenth-century law enforcement. Those with a passion for history, particularly of the nineteenth century, will find this biography of Reeves to be an essential book for their library.”—Angela Y. Walton-Raji, author of Black Indian Genealogy Research.
“In the long, sanguinary history of the battle to bring law and order to the violent American West there was no greater or more important figure than this former slave who spent his life enforcing the law in what was the most lawless section of the country. Because Reeves was black, his remarkable career for the most part was overlooked by the contemporary press, making it difficult now to reconstruct his history, but author Art Burton has admirably tackled the task and told a story, long overdue.”—Robert K. DeArment, author of Bravo of the Brazos: John Larn of Fort Griffin, Texas.
In The Story of Oklahoma, Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves appears as one of “eight notable Oklahomans,” the “most feared U.S. marshal in the Indian country.” That Reeves was also an African American who had spent his early life as a slave in Arkansas and Texas made his accomplishments all the more remarkable. Black Gun, Silver Star tells Bass Reeves's story for the first time, sifting through fact and legend to discover the truth about one of the most outstanding peace officers in late-nineteenth-century America—and perhaps the greatest lawman of the Wild West era.
Bucking the odds (“I’m sorry, we didn’t keep black people’s history,” a clerk at one of Oklahoma’s local historical societies answered to a query), Art T. Burton traces Reeves from his days of slavery to his soldiering in the Civil War battles of the Trans-Mississippi Theater to his career as a deputy U.S. marshal out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, beginning in 1875 when he worked under “Hanging Judge” Isaac C. Parker. Fluent in Creek and other southern Native languages, physically powerful, skilled with firearms, and a master of disguise, Reeves was exceptionally adept at apprehending fugitives and outlaws and his exploits were legendary in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Black Gun, Silver Star restores this remarkable figure to his rightful place in the history of the American West.
Art T. Burton is a professor of history at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois. He is the author of Black, Buckskin, and Blue: African American Scouts and Soldiers on the Western Frontier and Black, Red, and Deadly: Black and Indian Gunfighters of the Indian Territory, 1870–1907.
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