Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr.
Scott and Dorothy Bullitt
Professor of American History
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African American History | African American History in the West (Now available at www.blackpast.org)  

History 313:
The History of African Americans in the West
Syllabus and Course Assignment

Department of History
Winter 2009

Professor Quintard Taylor
Office: Smith 316-A
Office Hour: 10:00-11:00 MWF
Email: qtaylor@u.washington.edu


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 first 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
Shirley Ann Wilson Moore and Quintard Taylor, African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000
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://faculty.washington.edu/qtaylor/)

Related Resources:
Blackpast.org (www.blackpast.org)

Supplemental Readings:
I have placed some articles on reserve to help explain the black West. As the need arises I may add other articles and books to the reserve room holdings.

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. 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 5:00 6:00 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
Taylor, Manual, 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
Taylor, In Search, Chapter 2
Taylor, Manual, Chapter 2
Quintard Taylor, "Slaves and Free Men: Blacks in the Oregon Country, 1840-1860," Oregon Historical Quarterly 83:2 (Summer 1982):153-170
FILM: Black Indians

Week 3: Free African American Communities in the Antebellum West
Taylor, In Search, Chapter 3
Taylor, Manual, 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

Taylor, In Search, Chapter 4
Taylor, Manual, 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.
Frank H. Goodyear, "Beneath the Shadow of Her Flag": Philip A. Bell's The Elevator and the Struggle for Enfranchisement, 1865-1870," in California History (Spring 1999):26-39

Week 5: Post Civil War Migration and Settlement
Taylor, In Search, Chapter 5
Taylor, Manual, Chapter 5
Nell Irvin Painter, Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction, (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1976), Chapters 12, 15.


Week 6: Buffalo Soldiers and the Defense of the West
Taylor, In Search, Chapter 6
Taylor, Manual, 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.
FILM: Buffalo Soldiers

Week 7: The Black Urban West, 1880-1940
Taylor, In Search, Chapters 7-8
Taylor, Manual, Chapter 7
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
Taylor, Manual, Chapter 8
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

Week 9: The Civil Rights Movement in the West
Taylor, In Search, Chapter 10
Taylor, Manual, Chapter 9
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
Taylor, In Search, Conclusion
Taylor, Manual, Chapter 10


Each student enrolled in HSTAA 313 will write a 10 to 12 page research paper (including footnotes or endnotes) assessing some impor¬tant question in the history of the African American West. Avoid simply describing some episode such as “the 1879 Migration to Kansas” or “Seattle in World War II.” Instead pose a research question and given the resources at your dispos¬al, answer that question. Thus your paper should ask why significant black migration to the Pacific Northwest did not occur in the 1920s or how the 1960s campaign for civil rights differed in this region, or determine the evolving role of African American women in the Black Panther Party, especially in Seattle.

I will accept a paper based largely on secondary sources if your research is centered outside the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho). However if you examine questions of particular relevance to our region, I would expect you to use primary sources as evidence to support your argument. Your paper should conform to the citation standards followed in the In Search textbook and should include at least 10 sources. Please note the citation style. Papers with improper citation styles will be marked down.

Please observe the following dead¬lines:
January 30: Please email me a paper title and a paragraph explaining your topic and why you chose it.

February 6: Present by email a one page outline and bibliography of primary and secondary sources to be used for your paper.

February 13: Present by email a brief progress report on your paper. This is an opportunity for you to describe any difficulties you may be encountering. Your report should, if necessary, include a request for a meeting to discuss those difficulties.

March 6: Turn in research paper by 5:00 p.m. to the History Main Office (the office closes at 5:00 p.m.) or send it to me as an email attachment.

Suggested Topic Areas

  • Susie Revels Cayton and the Communist Party
  • The Garvey Movement in Portland (or Seattle)
  • The Campaign to Change the Name of King County to Martin Luther King County
  • W.E.B. DuBois and the Racial Politics of the Pacific Northwest
  • The Rise and Fall of Affirmative Action in Washington State
  • The Nation of Islam in Seattle
  • Blacks in New Spain or Northern Mexico (1821-1848)
  • Black Fur Traders and Trappers in Pacific Northwest
  • The Slavery Controversy in the Antebellum Pacific Northwest
  • African American Slavery in one of the Five the Indian Nations
  • African American Rights in Antebellum Oregon
  • Reconstruction in Nevada (or California, Texas, Colorado Territory, etc.)
  • Civil War African American Communities in Kansas
  • Black Women in the 19th Century Urban West
  • The UNIA (or the NAACP) in the West
  • World War II Migration to Seattle (or other western cities)
  • Blacks and Asians in World War II Hawaii
  • African American Labor in the American West
  • The 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Arizona (or some other western state)
  • Black Power in the West: The Black Panther Party and US


Those students who perform poorly on the midterm exam (69 or below) have the option of writing a book review to offset that grade. The books eligible for review can be found on the course bibliography. Your review should be a candid appraisal of the work. As with most book "reviews," you will describe the book's major thesis or argument. But I also request that you follow these guidelines in your assignment:

1. Assess whether you were convinced by the author's argument.

2. Discuss the most important new information you learned about the African American West from the book.

3. Describe how the book reinforced or challenged ideas about African American history that you have learned from the assigned readings, my lectures, and the discussions.

4. State whether you would recommend the book to others, and include specific reasons for your decision.

Your review should be approximately five typewritten pages, 1,500 words for those of you who use computers. I recommend that you devote the first three pages to a review of the book itself and the remaining two pages to respond to the four guidelines. Please number your pages. I will accept reviews attached to emails.

The first page of each review should have information on the book which appears as follows:

Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994), 330 pages.

You may choose, although you are not limited to, the books that appear on the website reading list. If you choose a book not on the list make sure that it is primarily a history which covers some topic related to African American western history. Avoid books that are assigned readings for the course or that are general African American history books (e.g. Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love: Black Women, Work and Family From Slavery to the Present). Also not eligible are regularly assigned textbooks for any other course.