Mia MaskNov 24, 2023
A History of the African American Western
Did you know Sidney Poitier was a western icon? In a genre best known for John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, African American actors and directors have played an important role in both shaping, and subverting, Hollywood westerns. In Black Rodeo: A History of the African American Western (U Illinois Press, 2023), Vassar College film professor Mia Mask unravels the history of Black westerns dating back to 1910s and 1920s rodeo films, all the way through modern iterations such as Django Unchained (2012). Mask explains the eras in film history that changed the genre, including the infusion of pro athletes into Hollywood in the 1940s, New Hollywood in the 1960s, and the rise of Blaxploitation in the 1970s. Through this history, Mask explains how African Americans were central to the development and lasting appeal of westerns as a global film genre, and how genre conventions from westerns are in the very DNA of American popular culture today.
Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and is the Assistant Director of the American Society for Environmental History.