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Myths of the West. Frontier experience; racial clashes with Native Americans; progress and extermination. Myths of the South: segregated archetypes: cavaliers, belles, mammies and bucks. African Americans and Mexican Americans in the West: Revising the Cowboy.

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Myths of the West

  • Frontier experience; racial clashes with Native Americans; progress and extermination



Nat love aka deadwood dick and below mexican vaqueros at buffalo bill s wild west l.jpg

African Americans and Mexican Americans in the West: Revising the Cowboy

Nat Love, aka Deadwood Dick and below, Mexican vaqueros at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West

  • Of the estimated 35,000 cowboys who worked the ranches during the 19th century, 5-9,000 were black

  • At the end of the 19th century, 1 in 3 cowboys was a vaquero



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Women Behind the Lines: Hidden Histories of the War 1861-1889)

Spies:

  • When Belle Boyd was 17, she shot and killed a drunken Union soldier who was trying to raise the US flag over her house in West Virginia

  • The next year she worked as a spy for General Jackson

  • Arrested in twice in 1863

    Government workers:

    Thousands of southern women worked for the Confederate government--Known as “department girls.” They received higher wages than men in the army

    Hospital superintendents:

    A CSA report in 1862 noted that hospitals managed by men had mortality rate of 10% while those managed by women had only 5% death rates


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Treatment of Native Americans 1861-1889)

Expulsion from lands (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 1831; Trail of Tears, 1831-8)

Resistance by religious leaders like Tecumseh (sides w/ British in 1812; Sitting Bull and Red Cloud, 1876)

Massacres by settlers and US Army (Sand Creek, 1864; Wounded Knee, 1890)

Reservations

Question of citizenship

Loss of historical voice

Savage, demonised image in popular culture

Development of Slavery in South

Sale and enforced separation of families

Resistance through slave revolts (1831, Nat Turner, lay preacher)

Lynchings by the ‘invisible army’: aka, the KKK

Segregation and Jim Crow laws

Voting rights denied in South

Slave narratives as correctives to national history (Harriet Jacobs, 1861)

Image of unbridled male sexuality and female passivity in popular culture

Shared Histories of Expulsion, Extermination and Slavery


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Gender and Race in American South 1861-1889)

  • Racial theories justified as a means of protecting white women from aggressive black male sexuality (KKK)

  • Black women subjected to rape by white men for centuries; mulatto population largely result of white male sexuality and fantasies of power

  • Both white and black women and black men subject to discrimination and disenfranchisement; white southern Grimke sisters were most prominent abolitionists and advocates for sexual equality from 1830s-1850s

  • Image of mulatta popular theme in 19th-century literature: Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans (1826) and Clotel (1853), the story of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter with Sally Hemmings: virtuous mulatta used to defy racial stereotypes


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Multiracial Exclusion in the West (different from South’s black-white racial binary)

  • In California, mestizos, Indians, and Chinese were not allowed to vote or testify in court. Many Californios (of Spanish-Mexican-Indian descent) were divested of their lands due to their alleged Indian blood

  • Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882, forbids future importation of Chinese labourers (made permanent in 1902)

  • Statements against Japanese men in California and other western states use language of miscegenation and fears of unions with white women to stir up racial hatred (borrowed from South). Ban on Japanese immigration in 1924

  • Were westerners really against slavery? CA, NV, OR all pass anti-miscegenation laws in 1870s (not repealed in CA until 1948 and 1959 in NV). Oregon’s law forbidding settlement of free blacks not repealed until 1926


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Gender and Race in the American West black-white racial binary)

  • Pioneer women share same frontier experience as men; active wage earners and farmers; women buy land through Homestead Act, 1862

  • Native American women form unions with trappers, miners, soldiers

  • Captivity narratives: white women cultural border-crossers; integration within native culture; white male fear of race contamination

  • Native women (Pocahontas) and mixed-race heroines (Ramona, 1884) popular symbols which problematize racial stereotypes

  • Ramona, a novel, raises awareness of Native American situation which Jackson’s history, A Century of Dishonor (1881) cannot

  • Fears of Chinese and Japanese immigration focus on potential unions with white women—nativist fears borrowed from South


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Mixed-Race Americans: Mulattoes and Mestizos black-white racial binary)Where race and gender intersect in the West and the South

  • How race is defined along America’s borders (Mexican racialisation from Mexican War through Bracero programme)

  • Anti-miscegenation laws in South police instability of racial categories (light-skinned blacks)

  • Citizenship debates in California (1849-51) and Texas (1848): Are Native Americans citizens? Can Mexican Americans vote?


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A Century of Dishonor black-white racial binary) (1881)

Ramona (1884)

Mexican ranchero class tries to defend land rights against squatters, but loses money and lands in court battles

Native Americans politically disenfranchised; genocidal pogroms instituted by state government sanction murder of 8,000+ Native Americans in 1850s

Native population in 1845 150,000. By 1880, only 16,000 left

1850 CA legislature allows “vagrant” Indians to become bond servants

1886 all Indian land deemed in public domain

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)


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Cimarron black-white racial binary) (1929), no. 1 best-selling western with a multiracial hero, filmed in 1931

Edna Ferber and the Mixed-Race Protagonist in American Literature


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The Western (conflict between red and white) black-white racial binary)

The noble but doomed savage (George Catlin), cowboy and the myth of the frontier (Frederic Remington)

Theodore Roosevelt’s Winning of the West (1889-1896), racial conflict and extermination) and Owen Wister’s Virginian (1901, Native Americans written out of West)

Zane Grey’s Vanishing American (1925)

Stagecoach (1939, directed by John Ford, starring John Wayne) whites against the Indians, most enduring view of West

Racial revisionism: Little Big Man, Dances with Wolves, Geronimo

The Plantation Epic (black and white society)

Women and the mythology of the Lost Cause

Thomas Dixon (The Leopard’s Spots, 1902; The Clansman, 1905) reinvent post Civil War South as violent clash between black and white

The Birth of a Nation (1915), racist history of Civil War and Reconstruction, regenerates KKK; Micheaux’s Within Our Gates contests view

Gone with the Wind (1936, 1939), women’s narratives of Civil War; new history of race and gender in American South

Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982) and Tony Morrison’s Beloved (1987)

Images of the old West and South: Racial Binaries in American culture


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Race and Gender in the Twentieth Century: The West black-white racial binary)

  • Historically, Mexicans have been looked upon as inferior, non-white race. Parkman, Roosevelt, Dana all criticise Mexicans as lazy, mixed-race degenerates

  • Mexican American Immigration and racial purity: Mexicans not in quotas but only to satisfy big business’ need for cheap labour

  • Jim Crow laws affect Mexicans in South too– separate schools, churches, restaurants, restrooms, etc., and votes often controlled by elite whites

  • Sharecroppers in Texas were black, white and Mexican—tensions develop between poor whites and Mexicans

  • Indian Citizenship Act, 1924

  • 1924: first Mexican and Canadian border patrol instituted in US

  • League of United Latin American Citizens, est. 1928 in Corpus Christi, Texas to develop coherent, upwardly mobile, white Mexican population

  • Mexicans listed as white in 1920 census; listed as ‘other’ in 1930 census

  • Racialising “Okies” in the Great Depression

  • African American migration to California during WWII

  • Japanese internment, 1942

  • Sleepy Lagoon and Zoot Suit Riots



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Blackface and ‘playing Indian’ black-white racial binary)

  • In addition to perpetuating many racial stereotypes, Hollywood’s censorship code forbade narratives which depicted mixed-race couples (miscengenation). However, sometimes filmmakers got around these strictures…


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Oscar Micheaux most successful black filmmaker in 1920s black-white racial binary)

Hattie McDaniel wins Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, 1939

Actor Canada Lee (Body and Soul, 1947) blacklisted by HUAC

Dorothy Dandridge major 1950s sex symbol

In the Heat of the Night (1967) with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger landmark Civil Rights film

Shaft (1971) Af-Am alternative to classic white detective films

African Americans in Hollywood


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Popular images of Native Americans black-white racial binary)





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‘Passing’ for white: cinema confronts the imagined nature of race in Imitation of Life (1934)


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Performing Race: nature of race in Imitation of Life (1959)


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