After Laura Arata
first visited Virginia City, Montana in graduate school, she became fascinated by the story of one historical figure—Sarah Bickford, a former slave, who migrated to this frontier, mining town in the late 1860s, and became a prominent business owner who promoted tourism at the site of a famous lynching of white “lawbreakers” by the Montana Vigilantes.
In Race and the Wild West: Sarah Bickford, the Montana Vigilantes, and the Tourism of Decline, 1870–1930
(University of Oklahoma Press), a fascinating work of historical recovery, Arata provides a compelling biography of Sarah Bickford and the larger story of black life in the rural West.
Ryan Driskell Tate holds a Ph.D. in history from Rutgers University. @rydriskelltate