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Nat Love: The Life and Legacy of the Former Slave Who Became the Wild West's Most Famous Black Cowboy

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Delaine Daniels

1 Hours 44 Minutes

Findaway Voices

December 2019

Audio Book Summary

Explorers, soldiers, and settlers of African-American heritage comprise an unfamiliar story to most students of American history. However, in the push westward, they were present in sufficient enough numbers to exert great influence on the nation’s development. Among the earliest accounts is that of Isabel de Olvera, who settled in New Mexico around the year of 1600, and it is estimated that by 1750, 25% of Albuquerque’s population shared discernible African ancestry. York, the well-known servant of Lewis and Clark, accompanied the legendary expedition under the auspices of the Jefferson administration, and Edward Rose traveled up the Missouri River in the same era. Within just a few years, Pio Pico became the governor of California, and George Bush became one of the first black men to travel the Oregon Trail, opening that route to a flood of settlers over a 10-year period.

In parallel with these individuals came a number of black frontiersmen who participated in the exploration of the Western terrain, said to have numbered in the dozens. Seldom heard but notable names of black figures in the West include trick rodeo rider Jesse Stahl, stunt rider and castle rustler Ned Huddleston, and Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. Marshal. Isom Dart and Willie Bill Pickett also garnered some fame in the era.

Given the illiteracy rates of the day, few tangible accounts of such journeys have survived, but one glaring exception is that of Nat Love, one of the most famous folk legends of the 19th century. In a journey spanning many decades, Love tried his hand at virtually every line of work related to Western life, and he is generally regarded as an emblematic all-around virtuoso of the cattle range, an environment demanding proficiency in numerous activities on a daily basis. His status is not only due in part to his highly developed skills, but also the fact that he wrote of his life in an extensive set of published memoirs.

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