Great Plains Studies, Center for

 

Date of this Version

Fall 2007

Citation

Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 27, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 312.

Comments

Copyright 2005 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Abstract

Outside America offers a perceptive analysis of racial and ethnic undercurrents integral to the shaping of American western history. Its chapters revisit "rough riding" Theodore Roosevelt, African American narratives of homesteading and prosperity on the Great Plains and further West, Mormon literature, and the dubious position of Native American "performers" in Buffalo Bill's Wild West shows.

The opening chapter on Roosevelt places the president in the midst of burgeoning conversations about the mythical West and includes passages from Roosevelt's writings on his experiences as a hunter and rancher, often citing his frequent trips to the Dakotas and other locales in the Great Plains. Dan Moos pays close attention to Roosevelt's racialized language in his many publications, including The Rough Riders-a text that often belittles the contributions of African American troops from the Ninth and Tenth Cavalries during the battle at San Juan Hill. Moos also notes that while Roosevelt considers his "Rough Riders" distinctly American in terms of race, class, and education, the regiment was only " percent Native or Mexican American," and there was no Asian American or African American presence.

As the later chapters unfold, it becomes clear that Outside America is primarily concerned with the performance of identity and language as Moos continues to locate critical conversations about race and region in the written and visual narratives of his subjects. Chapters 2 and 3 examine novels, memoirs, and semiautobiographical narratives written and published by African American residents of the Great Plains (Oscar Micheaux, Robert Ball Anderson) and the West generally (Nat Love, Thomas Detter). Moos is interested in how "the African American presence in the American West raises the question of how the political rhetoric of national unity and homogeneity ... played out within this definitively American and supposedly leveling geographic space."