The story of how the West was won has become a powerful myth.
Most of its heroes are men. And most of them are white. Black West tells the flip side of the myth, taking us on a whirlwind of wild adventures in which African Americans play the starring roles.
In 1875, one in four cowboys was Black. The West also had a good share of Black sheriffs, Black trappers and Black soldiers, as well as Black women. Many African Americans on the frontier forged alliances with Indians, while others became their slaves. All these daring men and women took the risk of seeking adventure in the West to gain their freedom.
This film recounts the hardships African Americans faced on the heels of the Civil War, trying to live as free people in a country built on the backs of Black slaves. Their stories take us through the Far West era, which started in the turmoil of the Civil War and ended with the closing of the American Frontier, when U.S. lands had been opened-up and settled all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
The rugged West offered victims of slavery and racism the freedom to write their own destiny. It offered a way to escape the cruel master’s whip, the Ku Klux Klan’s punishing raids, the lingering racial contempt. This film reveals the truth about this misunderstood period in American history. For the very first time, these forgotten heroes tell this amazing counter-story in their own words. The tale of an oppressed people who bravely followed the path of freedom into the Wild West.
Black West – Premiere – Sunday, 19 February at 9.30pm on SBS and SBS on Demand