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Cover image for Black pioneers : an untold story
Black pioneers : an untold story
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c1999.
Physical Description:
193 p. : illustrations (some photographs), map.
Introduction : the Northwest territory-- Black pathfinders and Native Americans-- War, race, and slavery in the Ohio Valley-- Pioneer farmers of the Ohio Valley-- The determination of Sarah Jane Woodson-- Peter H Clark's Cincinnati-- A railroad's 'Fierce Passions"-- The Malvins of Cleveland-- The fight for liberty in Indiana-- 'Warfare and strife' in Illinois-- The 'Order of the Men of Opression'-- The Iowa of Alexander Clark-- Wisconsin Battles 'The Heel of Opression'-- The Greys of Minnesota-- From Missour to Kansas: The Odysseys of Henry Clay Bruce-- From 'Alien and Stranger' to U.S. Army Officer.
Reading Level:
1170 L Lexile
A biographical history of influential African American pioneers and freedom fighters in the Midwest, including Sara Jane Woodson, Peter Clark, and Dred Scott.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 977 KAT 1 1

On Order



Out of a past little noted in history texts comes this tale of African American pioneers in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. These pathfinders were slaves, poets, runaways, missionaries, farmers, teachers, and soldiers. For these African Americans, the frontier meant freedom, and from the earliest times, some seized liberty by joining Indian nations.As Southern slaveholders tried to pass laws to make slavery legal in the West and territorial legislatures wrote "Black Laws" that limited basic rights to white settlers, African American pioneers became freedom fighters. From Ohio to Kansas they battled slavehunters and developed Underground Railroad stations. Black families built their own schools and churches and created unique forms of protest to ensure their advancement.Historian William Loren Katz reveals a frontier saga that has often been buried, glossed over, or lost.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-9-In a clear, straightforward style, Katz describes the settlement of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys (covering Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri) by African Americans seeking freedom, including biographical sketches of men and women who formed churches, started schools, or were politically active in their region. Some of these settlers were fugitive slaves; several set up stations on the Underground Railroad with the aid of the Quakers; others were farmers, poets, and soldiers. In several states, they helped form black regiments in the Civil War. Chronologically arranged, the book introduces many lesser-known personages not found in most collective biographies and places them in a broader context of U.S. history as a whole. Students or teachers might want to use this title as a starting point for further research. Bureau of Census figures are appended to each chapter and the book contains extensive endnotes and a lengthy bibliography. Well-chosen black-and-white illustrations and reproductions from the 1800s round out this readable and well-documented presentation.-Debbie Feulner, Northwest Middle School, Greensboro, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) With this volume, Katz continues to explore little-known aspects of African-American history for young readers. Here, he takes a careful look at the African-American pioneers in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. Like other Americans heading West, many blacks sought land and sometimes adventure. For others, the frontier offered the prospect of freedom and an escape from oppression. Katz looks at prominent individuals as well as groups of African Americans as he shows how they carved out lives for themselves from the wilderness while fighting efforts to legalize slavery in the territories. He also presents a good deal of information about African-American female pioneers. The parts of the Underground Railroad that involved Kentucky and Ohio are discussed in depth, as well as the impact of the Fugitive Slave Law on the settlers. The author is particularly skilled at placing events in the context of the country's history as a whole: the depiction of the interaction of African Americans and Native Americans during this time when both groups were seen as less than full citizens is especially compelling. The narration is clear, fluid, and enlivened with quotes from the pioneers themselves. With a bibliography and an index. deborah taylor (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Katz (Black Women of the Old West, 1995, etc.) takes fascinating material'the tale of free and escaped African-Americans who helped colonize the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys from the late 18th-century to the middle of the 19th century'and gives it a textbook treatment. In this gathering of details and events in the lives of real people who settled the area, he presents a full history of the contributions of determined people who established schools and churches, fought slavery, and won basic civil rights. The many black-and-white period drawings and photographs help establish the people in the narrative and the facts surrounding their lives. The facts alone, one after the other, add up to a cogent picture of the growing wealth and importance of African-Americans in US history, but the dry presentation may doom it to use solely for reference or as a supplement to more inviting works. (index, not seen, maps, charts, notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. Freed in Virginia, self-taught John Malvin journeyed eagerly to Ohio in the early 1800s, only to find, as he put it, "every door closed against the colored man in a free state, excepting the jails and penitentiaries." Like other areas in the Northwest Territory, Ohio enacted "Black Laws" that so severely limited the freedoms and opportunities of black citizens that a prohibition on slavery was almost unnecessary. Katz tells of the many brave, determined African American settlers who carved a new life for themselves on the frontier in the pre^-Civil War days. John and Mary Jones of Chicago ran a prosperous tailoring business and played an active role in the Underground Railroad. Kentucky slave Henry Bibb escaped to Canada but returned to the states as a major antislavery activist. Many others, few of them well known, carried on similar activities; Katz's well-researched narrative tells their stories. An excellent source for reports and a rich supplement to the U.S. history curriculum. Bibliography; end notes; plentiful black-and-white photos. --Anne O'Malley

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