The West, particularly the mountain West of states like Colorado, Utah, Idaho, has long had an image as a land of white men. This image dates to the 19th century, yet it is counterintuitive. Before it became a white man's paradise, the West was the land of Native Americans, immigrants, Hispanics, and even occasionally free blacks. In his new book, Making the White Man's West: Whiteness and the Creation of the American West
(University Press of Colorado, 2016), Jason Pierce
(Associate Professor of History at Angelo State University) examines this transformation. Initially, the West was treated as a space to send the others of society, including primarily non-whites, in order to keep the Eastern United States more racially pure. Yet, when gold was discovered and the West became a desirable location for white inhabitants, the image had to be remade. Pierce examines how this was done and how the image of the West continued to be contested. He also discusses how violence helped disempower the non-white inhabitants of the region and render their continued presence less threatening to the idea of a white man's country.
In this episode of the podcast, Pierce discusses the book and his key findings about this process. He discusses how he got interested in the region as a native Coloradan. He explains why this transformation occurred and how some of the interesting figures worked hard to remake the West's image. He also discusses serendipitous moments in the research process and the present and future racial image of the region.
Christine Lamberson is an Assistant Professor of History at Angelo State University. Her research and teaching focuses on 20th century U.S. political and cultural history. She's currently working on a book manuscript about the role of violence in shaping U.S. political culture in the 1960s and 1970s. She can be reached at email@example.com.