History 313: The History of African Americans in the West - Syllabus

Department of History
Winter 2018

Professor Quintard Taylor
Office: Smith 316-A
Office Hour: 3:30-4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and by Appointment
Email: qtaylor@u.washington.edu

Click to Download this syllabus (Microsoft Word doc)


HSTAA 313 


African American history in the American West represents a paradox for historians.  Most scholars who study the African American experience limit their focus to the Old South and the cities of the East and Midwest, only occasionally describing Los Angeles as an example of national trends in black history.  Scholars of the American West usually focus on Native Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans if they discuss people of color at all in the region. Yet black history in the West is as old, complex, and compelling as Western or African American history.  This course will examine black western history tracing its origins from the period when Spain controlled much of the region through the second decade of the 21st Century.  The course will present the diverse array of women and men who helped shape the history of the region, of black America, and of the entire nation.  

Required Textbooks:

Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998)

Shirley Ann Wilson Moore and Quintard Taylor, African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003)

There are no longer “reserves” in the library for this course.  They have been made obsolete by technology.  Used copies of  In Search of the Racial Frontier and African American Women Confront the West are available through Amazon.com.  You should purchase them there.  

The one journal article, “Michael Robinson and Frank Schubert, “David Fagen: An Afro-American Rebel in the Philippines,” Pacific Historical Review 44:1 (February 1975): 68-83, can be accessed by any student with a UW ID from your computer.  


In past years I have required the manual below which is on my faculty website.  It is no longer required but since it provides useful background reading, I will not remove it at this time.

Quintard Taylor, The African American Experience in The American West: A Manual for the History of Black Americans from 1528 to the Present (online manual can be accessed through my website: http://quintardtaylor.com/

Related Resources:

Blackpast.org - see especially the section on African Americans in the West that I am linking here:  http://www.blackpast.org/aaw/african-american-history-american-west


Your course grade is based on three exercises: a midterm exam, a final examination and a 10 page research paper which I describe more fully later in this syllabus.  The midterm is scheduled for the end of the fifth week of the quarter.  Some students will be unable to take the midterm exam with the rest of the class.  In that case I ask them to take a makeup exam scheduled for 5:006:00 p.m. on the last Friday of instruction during the quarter.  The room will be announced later.  Since the makeup exam will be penalized 10 points on a 100 point exercise, all students should make every effort to take the exam at its scheduled time.  

Those students who perform poorly on the midterm exam (69 or below) have the option of writing a book review to offset that grade.  Should you choose to write the review, it can be handed in no later than the Friday of the ninth week of the term.  Please read the page titled Optional Book Review Assignment in the manual before initiating your review.

My grading procedures are simple.  Since each exam is worth up to 100 points I will average your numerical score.  I will also assign a numerical score for your research paper, "C"=75, "C+"=78, etc.  Your numerical scores will then be averaged to determine your course grade.  Thus if your overall average is 76 your course grade will be the numerical equivalent of a "C" in the UW grading system.

I do not normally issue "incompletes" to students who by the end of the quarter have not taken an exam, handed in an assigned paper or otherwise met the course requirements.  If you have not completed all of the course requirements by the end of exam week, and you have not, by that point, explained why, your grade will be lowered accordingly.


Week 1: Spanish Origins

Taylor, In Search, Chapter 1

Dedra S. McDonald, “To Be Black and Female in the Spanish Southwest: Toward a History of African Women on New Spain’s Northern Frontier Jack " in Moore and Taylor, eds., African American Women Confront the West, pp. 31-52 


Week 2: Slavery in the Antebellum West 

Gregory Nokes, “Slavery in Oregon: The Reuben Shipley Saga, 

Taylor, In Search, Chapter 2 

An Act in Relation to Service (Utah Territory Slave Code) 

FILM: Black Indians


Week 3: Free African American Communities in the Antebellum West

Frederick Douglass Describes the Composite Nation 

Taylor, In Search, Chapter 3 

Lynn Hudson, “Mining a Mythic Past: The History of Mary Ellen Pleasant,” in Moore and Taylor, eds., African American Women Confront the West, pp. 56-70. 


Week 4: Reconstruction in the West

Henry O. Wagoner Celebrates the Ratification of the 15th Amendment

Taylor, In Search, Chapter 4

Barbara Y. Welke, "Rights of Passage: Gendered-Rights Consciousness and the Quest for Freedom, San Francisco, California, 1850-1870,” in Moore and Taylor, eds., African American Women Confront the West, 73-93. 


Week 5: Post Civil War Migration and Settlement  

John Mercer Langston, “The Exodus: The Causes Which Led the Colored People of the South to Leave Their Homes—The Lesson Taylor, In Search, Chapter 5

Alberto Rodriquez, Border Love on the Rio Grande, 




Week 6: Buffalo Soldiers and the Defense of the West

Captain Charles Young Speaks at Stanford University, 1903 

Taylor, In Search, Chapter 6 

Michael C. Robinson and Frank N. Schubert, "David Fagen: An Afro-American Rebel in the Philippines, 1899-1901," Pacific Historical Review 44:1 (February 1975):68-83.


Week 7: The Black Urban West, 1880-1940

The Azusa Street Revival

Beatrice Morrow Cannady Speaks to the NAACP Convention in Los Angeles, 1928

Taylor, In Search, Chapters 7-8

Quintard Taylor, “Susie Revels Cayton, Beatrice Morrow Cannady and the Campaign for Social Justice in the Pacific Northwest,” in Moore and Taylor, eds., African American Women Confront the West, pp. 189-206.


Week 8: World War II and the Black West

Greg Robinson, “Defending Nikki: Hugh McBeth and the Japanese American Internment” 

Charlotta Bass, “Acceptance Speech for Vice President Candidate for the Progressive Party”

Taylor, In Search, Chapter 9

Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, “’Women Made the Community’: African American Migrant Women and the Cultural Transformation of the San Francisco East Bay Area,” in Moore and Taylor, eds., African American Women Confront the West, pp. 251-275 

FILM: Local Color (on Portland)


Week 9: The Civil Rights Movement in the West

Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, “Who, Then, Will Speak for the Common Good? 

Taylor, In Search, Chapter 10

Linda Williams Reese, “Clara Luper and the Civil Rights Movement in Oklahoma City, 1958-1964,” in Moore and Taylor, eds., African American Women Confront the West, pp. 328-343 or 

Jane Rhodes, “Black Radicalism in 1960s California: Women in the Black Panther Party,” in Moore and Taylor, eds., African American Women Confront the West, pp. 344-362.  


Week 10: The Black West: Into the 21st Century 

David Golland, “Arthur Allen Fletcher: The Father of Affirmative Action 

Carol Lynn McKibben, “Race and Color in a California Coastal Community: The Seaside Story 

Lydia Price, “A White Bronco? Too-Tight Gloves?  A Guide to the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial for Those Who Missed the ‘90s”

Henry W. McGee, “Gentrification, Integration, or Displacement? The Seattle Story”

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