Black Montana


Black Montana

Settler Colonialism and the Erosion of the Racial Frontier, 1877–1930

Anthony W. Wood

352 pages
14 photographs, 5 illustrations, 1 map, 6 tables, 1 appendix, index


July 2021


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December 2023


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eBook (EPUB)
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July 2021


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eBook (PDF)
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July 2021


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About the Book

2022 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize Finalist

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, many African Americans moved westward as Greater Reconstruction came to a close. Though, along with Euro-Americans, Black settlers appropriated the land of Native Americans, sometimes even contributing to ongoing violence against Indigenous people, this migration often defied the goals of settler states in the American West.

In Black Montana Anthony W. Wood explores the entanglements of race, settler colonialism, and the emergence of state and regional identity in the American West during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By producing conditions of social, cultural, and economic precarity that undermined Black Montanans’ networks of kinship, community, and financial security, the state of Montana, in its capacity as a settler colony, worked to exclude the Black community that began to form inside its borders after Reconstruction.

Black Montana depicts the history of Montana’s Black community from 1877 until the 1930s, a period in western American history that represents a significant moment and unique geography in the life of the U.S. settler-colonial project.

Author Bio

Anthony W. Wood is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Michigan. He worked as a historian for the Montana Historical Society on Montana’s African American Heritage Places Project.


"Black Montana is a history that fits well within the new subgenre of sophisticated frontier histories written about the rural Black West and African American–Native American relations as explored by scholars such as Kendra T. Field, Khalil Anthony Johnson, Tiya Miles, Timothy E. Nelson, and Bernadette Pruitt. The book is a must read for audiences interested in the most recent and comprehensive history of African American migration, community formation, and multiracial relations in Montana and the Rocky Mountain West and the Pacific Northwest prior to the Great Depression and the erosion of the racial frontier."—Herbert G. Ruffin II, Journal of African American History

“[Black Montana] rests on a firm scholarly foundation and should be the standard bearer for this far-too-neglected topic for some time.”—Keith Edgerton, Journal of American History

"This is a compelling book worthy of attention not only by scholars of Western and Black histories but by any reader looking for thorough, honest analysis of the contradictions of race and nation building in U.S. history."—Tobin Miller Shearer, Montana: The Magazine of Western History

“Through meticulous research, Anthony Wood has crafted a fascinating and nuanced account of the rise and fall of Montana’s Black communities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. . . . The book reveals how crucial notions of whiteness and white supremacy are to the region and nation.”—Laurie Mercier, coauthor of Speaking History: Oral Histories of the American Past, 1865–Present

“In addition to excavating an often erased social history of Black Montanans . . . Anthony Wood’s sophisticated use of settler-colonial theories provides a powerful analysis of racial formation, exclusion, and elimination. A work of cutting-edge scholarship, Black Montana is essential reading for those seeking a deeper understanding of the structures of race in the American West.”—Jeffrey Ostler, author of Surviving Genocide: Native Nations and the United States from the American Revolution to Bleeding Kansas

“The history of African Americans in the Rocky Mountains is still underdeveloped. Black Montana is important both for its work on bringing attention to the experience of Black Montanans and as a case study in the epistemology of settler colonialism.”—Jason E. Pierce, author of Making the White Man’s West

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations

List of Tables

Preface: Public History and the Birth of an Archive


Note on Terminology

Introduction: Colonial Erosion

1. The Golden West: Black Settlers to Montana, 1877–1917

2. Making Black Settler Space: Confronting the Colonial Color Line

3. Great Debates: Black Settler Politics in the New Age

4. Thinking with Magpies: Montana’s Conservation Movement and the Occlusion of the Black Wilderness Experience

5. Colonial Kinships: Sexuality, the Family, and Anti-Miscegenation Law in Montana

6. History among the Sediments: On the Entanglements of Race and Region

Epilogue: The Endurance of Black Montana

Appendix: Montana Homesteader Displacement Data following 1917





2022 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize Finalist

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