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I'm not sure whether this link will prove useful in providing an answer to your student's question, Andy, but this is a site I found when I input the search key-words - parameters: "Ex-slaves prominent in Westward Expansion"

BTW: That is a very astute question posed by your student - I wish them much luck in finding the answer/s (hopefully plural!)...

http://www.toptags.com/aama/books/book18.htm - a site dedicated to Black History

Search Engines are great - but you have to tell it exactly what you are looking for...

A subcategory: The Buffalo Soldiers - perhaps their names are listed somewhere else on the 'net - another avenue of research for your student.


Historical personages are not separate FROM their times...perhaps some of the Buffalo Soldiers (no names listed within this page) would be worthy of further inquiries to determine what happened to them AFTER the Civil War...whether they went West and settled the Territories during the Expansion.

I hope this helps or at least provides a "compass bearing" for your student.

** Found a listing of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients - perhaps this list of Buffalo Soldier's names may be of help:


Edited by Julie Ditolla
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Henry Flipper was not a slave but he was the son of slaves. He became the first African American to enter West Point. On 15th June, 1877, Flipper was commissioned as second lieutenant of the 10th Cavalry. Highly respected by the Native Americans these men were called Buffalo Soldiers because their short curly hair resembled that of the buffalo. His book, The Colored Cadet at West Point, appeared in 1878.

Flipper served under Captain Nicholas Nolan at Fort Still. He took part in the Indian Wars and fought against Victorio and the Apache in 1880. Colonel Benjamin Grierson wrote that "He came under my immediate command during the campaigns against Victorio's band of hostile Indians, and from personal observation, I can testify to his efficiency and gallantry in the field."

After being transferred to Fort Davis he became quartermaster. When Colonel William Rufus Shafter became commanding officer of Fort Davis in 1881, he immediately sacked Flipper as quartermaster. Flipper suspected what he later called a systematic plan of persecution, and is said to have been warned by civilians at the post of a plot by white officers to force him from the army. The following year, when he discovered post funds missing from his quarters, he attempted to conceal the loss until he could find or replace the money. When Shafter learned of the discrepancy, he immediately filed charges against him. Flipper was accused of embezzling $3,791.77 from commissary funds. Flipper denied the charge and claimed that he had been framed by his fellow officers, who hated him because he was African American. A court-martial found him not guilty of embezzlement but on 30th June, 1882, convicted him of conduct unbecoming an officer and ordered him dismissed from the Army.

In 1893 Flipper became a mining engineer for the Justice Department. He also worked as a consultant for the Sierra Mining Company (1908-1912) and as resident engineer for the William Greene Gold-Silver Company (1912-1922). Fluent in Spanish he was interpreter-translator for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations investigating Mexican Affairs (1922-23).

Flipper continued to prosper and was appointed assistant to the Secretary of the Interior (1923-1930) and held a senior position at the Pantepec Company in New York until he retired in 1931. His memoirs, Negro Frontiersman: The Western Memoirs of Henry Ossian Flipper, was published after his death. Henry Flipper died in Atlanta, Georgia, on 3rd May, 1940.

His supporters continued to campaign to overturn the sentence of the court-martial that had taken place in 1882. This was finally achieved in December 1976 when he was granted a posthumous honorable discharge. On 11th February, 1978, he was given a full military funeral at Thomasville, Georgia.

For more information, including photographs, see:


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In a general sense, absolutely. Ex slaves were an important part in the battle against the American Indians as Buffalo Soldiers. Buffalo soldiers were also used to build and maintain forts, string telegraph lines and map the southwest.

But there were also exodusters. During the American Civil War the government passed the Homestead Act, which offered 160 acres of land for free if the person or people that settled on it could cultivate it for five years. Thousands of ex slaves used the Homestead Act as a way to try to get away from the horrors of plantation life in reconstruction South. Many of these exodusters traveled to Kansas and Oklahoma (about 6,000 came to Kansas in 1879, while it is believed that over 22,000 came in 1880).

Ex-slaves also played a large role in building the railroads that conneced the east and west coasts. Generally, in American history, it is the Chinese and Irish that get credit for doing this back breaking work.

Many ex-slaves also helped with the cattle drives that so many people associate with the American west. It is believed that a full 25% of the cowboys in the 1880's and 1890's were black. Additionally, Bill Picket was a black cowboy that invented the rodeo sport of bulldoging also known as steer wrestling.

It is important to note that by these ex-slaves making the move to the west, they were changing American society. Before this many people in the west had never experienced black "culture."

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  • 2 weeks later...

One of the best sources on life of American cowboys was left by Nat Love - an ex slave who went on to become famous for his ability to read brands on cattle.

A google search will turn him out and his book is available online at


Bass Reeves was a deputy US marshal who served for a long time in Indian territory - apparently Judge Parker though the Indians there were more likely to trust black law officers than white ones?

Hope this helps

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  • 4 weeks later...

One area in which ex-slaves made a substantial contribution which is generally overlooked is the colonisation of the Great Plains. By 1880 some 25,000 black people (largely ex-slaves) had settled in Kansas. Nicodemus was an early black settlement which became abusy market centre until the railroad by-passed it. By 1900 black people had farmed 50,000 acres in Nebraska.

A major contribution.....

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