John Taylor was an ex-slave and Civil War veteran who settled in Southwest Colorado in the early 1870s. Taylor claimed that he was "the first white man to settle the Pine River Valley." Taylor was not passing for white and his claim was never a rejection of his African American self. Taylor's claim emerged out of a unique racial niche available to a handful of African Americans who appeared in the Southwest borderlands during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This study, using family oral histories and archival documents, looks at two historically situated social forces operating in the formation of his identity. The first includes what Omi and Winant describe as "racial projects." A number of the racial projects of the "frontier" created in some cases a racial divide, which buffered the oppression of African Americans because whiteness was based on not being regarded as an American Indian, "Mexican" or Asian. This racial dynamic was one of the social forces informing the logic of Taylor's claim. Indigenous culture and language constituted a second influence on Taylor's identity, particularly indigenous articulations of whiteness and the concept of the black white man. In previous studies focusing on the African American experience in the West, the concept of the black white man received little attention by historians. Even the history concentrating on the interaction between American Indians with the African Diaspora have not fully explored this concept, nor has it been considered in looking at the formation of white identity in North America. One of the unique contributions of this study is to seriously consider indigenous voices from a variety of sources, which include oral history and tribal languages, in the construction of identity. John Taylor's claim that he was a black white man remains a prime example of how one's identity takes form, changes and persists within the context of social historical structures.
|Commitee:||Gutherie, Ricardo, Sargent Wood, Linda|
|School:||Northern Arizona University|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||MAI 52/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||African American Studies, History, Ethnic studies|
|Keywords:||Borderlands, Colorado, Indian-black relations, Race relations, Southern Ute, Taylor, John, Whiteness|
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