Black Gun, Silver Star

Black Gun, Silver Star

The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves

Art T. Burton

Race and Ethnicity in the American West Series

348 pages
Illus., maps

Hardcover

July 2006

978-0-8032-1338-8

$24.95 Add to Cart
Paperback

April 2008

978-0-8032-1747-8

$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In The Story of Oklahoma, Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves appears as one of “eight notable Oklahomans,” the “most feared U.S. marshal in the Indian country.” That Reeves was also an African American who had spent his early life as a slave in Arkansas and Texas made his accomplishments all the more remarkable. Black Gun, Silver Star tells Bass Reeves's story for the first time, sifting through fact and legend to discover the truth about one of the most outstanding peace officers in late-nineteenth-century America—and perhaps the greatest lawman of the Wild West era. 

Bucking the odds (“I’m sorry, we didn’t keep black people’s history,” a clerk at one of Oklahoma’s local historical societies answered to a query), Art T. Burton traces Reeves from his days of slavery to his soldiering in the Civil War battles of the Trans-Mississippi Theater to his career as a deputy U.S. marshal out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, beginning in 1875 when he worked under “Hanging Judge” Isaac C. Parker. Fluent in Creek and other southern Native languages, physically powerful, skilled with firearms, and a master of disguise, Reeves was exceptionally adept at apprehending fugitives and outlaws and his exploits were legendary in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Black Gun, Silver Star restores this remarkable figure to his rightful place in the history of the American West.

Author Bio

Art T. Burton is a professor of history at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois. He is the author of Black, Buckskin, and Blue: African American Scouts and Soldiers on the Western Frontier and Black, Red, and Deadly: Black and Indian Gunfighters of the Indian Territory, 1870–1907.

Praise

"[This] biography is more statement of fact than tribute to Reeves and no punches are pulled. Bass had an exceptionally long tenure as a Deputy U. S. Marshal and made a few mistakes along the way. These are covered. But, so too, are the remarkable feats he accomplished. . . . No critic, then or now has been able to show that Bass did not do good and bring law and order to the frontier. Art's rendering takes on all comers and their questions. The book is a heck of a good read and not the least bit painful."—Mike Tower, Oklahombres.org

“Aside from a few fluff films (like Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles) and a smattering of lesser-known scholarship, the African-American presence in Wild West history has been severely underrepresented. . . . Against this backdrop rises Burton’s painstaking account of U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves. . . . Rigorous and impartial, Burton is less concerned with entertainment than faithful research—no small task given the Old West’s diverse and troubled racial climate, in which black accomplishment often went overlooked. But dedicated readers will become acquainted with a brave, resourceful lawman and the patchwork of homesteaders, murderers, horse thieves and bootleggers he governed.” —Publishers Weekly.

"[Burton's] years of research resulted in a remarkable story of an Old West giant, one who arguably was the best in his business."—True West

"As Burton traces Reeves' exploits through oral accounts, records of court proceedings and scraps of correspondence, his fascination with the subject helps to maintain a vigorous pace and ultimately makes Black Gun, Silver Star an eye-opening study of justice and race in the Old West."—Nick Smith, The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)

“The book is a good addition to the history of law enforcement in the Twin Territories. Students of this area will certainly want to add the book to their library.”—Western Outlaw-Lawman History Association Journal

Awards

Finalist for the 2007 Spur Award - Best Western Non-Fiction/Biography, sponsored by the Western Writers of America

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