Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Chronological History of the Negro in America

I haven't written a post dedicated soley to a book in a long time, but this one quite deserved the time, and enough time to read the whole book and then compose a review. The brothers Peter and Mort composed this compendium of history and biographies of African Americans in the Americas since colonial times till the December 1969.

For instance, now I'm in the year 1798, in which, on the 16th of March, Secretary of War James McHenry wrote to a Marine lieutenant on the frigate Constitution,
"No Negro, mulatto, or Indian to be enlisted, nor any description of men except natives of fair conduct, or foreigners of unequivocal character for sobriety and fidelity."

I've learned ot the existence of such men as James P. Beckwourth (1798 -1867) explorer, mountain man, and fur trader, who was born in Virginia. His father was a white man and his mother an African American slave woman. His father was also an officer in the Revolutionary Army.
In the early years of the 19th century, the Beckwourths, who had 13 children, relocated to a settlement near what is today Saint Louis. In 1816, James Beckwourth was apprenticed to a blacksmith. He ran away to New Orleans, then signed up with General Henry Ashley's Rocky Mountain expedition, to be a scout. The Bergmans report that one of the reasons for Beckwourth's nomadic existance was his determination not to be trapped in the accepted role of the Negro in white society.
In the 1820's and '30's, in the heyday of the scouts, hunters, and Indian fighters, Beckwourth became legendary, along with Jim Bridger and Kit Carson. The Blackfeet and Crow Nations accepted him into their communities. In 1848, Beckwourth became the chief scout for Fremont's expedition in the Rockies. He discovered the pass between the Feather and Truckee Rivers in California. Today this pass is called Beckwourth Pass.


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