The African-American contributions to the settlement of the western frontier is a matter of record. But for the purposes of Black History Month, following that trail of facts can be a dry and dusty endeavor. Sometimes you just need a good story. Finding good western fiction that features African-American protagonists can help slake that thirst. Here is a list of titles that may help stimulate interest beyond those February assignments.

Black Powder, White Smoke

by Loren D. Estleman, follows the adventures of ex-slave Honey Boutrille (and several other men) from New Orleans to Denver in the old West of 1885. This story combines historical detail and plenty of action that will keep readers turning the pages to see what happens.


Gabriel’s Story

by David Anthony Durham, tells the story of a 15 year old African American boy who flees the drudgery of Kansas farm life to become a cowboy in Texas in the 1870s, and gets a lot more than he bargained for when he falls in with some desperate men. Publisher Weekly called this novel a beautiful and brutal debut by a born storyteller.


Lonely Trumpet

by Johnny D. Boggs is the story of Lieutenant H. O. Flipper, an ex-slave and the first Black West Point graduate, who is accused of embezzelement and put on trial in Texas. Army attorney Captain Merritt Barber suspects a conspiracy and steps in to defend him.


Faraway Blue

by Max Evans. Based loosely on the true story of Civil War veteran and ex-slave Sgt. Moses Williams. Williams is a Bufflalo Soldier in the Ninth Cavalry, stationed in New Mexico. He is engaged in a war with the Apache leader Nana and his band of warriors. Trouble is, his bride to be has a haunting premonition that he will die by the hand of Nana. This is a love story, a western, and some history all in one pack.

Hanging Woman Creek

by Louis L'Amour, is widely considered one of his finest novels. The setting is Montana in the year 1885. Two line riders, Pronto Pike and Eddie Holt (a black man) are just trying to make a living when they run afoul of some dangerous land grabbers who force them into a fight for their lives and those of their friends.


by Elmer Kelton is about a black Texas cowboy and former slave, Isaac Jefford, who wins the respect of his fellow cowboys -- all except for one ex-confederate soldier.


And some titles for the younger readers (or those young at heart):

The Legend of Bass Reeves by Gary Paulsen (see earlier blog)

The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones by Helen Hemphill

The Journal of Joshua Loper: a Black cowboy by Walter Dean Myers

The Longest Ride by Denise Lewis Patrick

Wrango by Brian Burks


(Yes sir, there's some gold in them there hills alright. You just have to be willing to go and look to find it.!)