Category Archives: Arizona

African-American History & Tucson Students

Arizona was in the spotlight a lot in 2010 with debates about immigration reform and about teaching high school students about America’s ethnic groups through focused study on individual groups. The Mexican-American studies class in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) has garnered the most attention and it remains in the spotlight this year with the State and the TUSD at loggerheads. The State wants to school district to shut down the class claiming that it violates state law, and TUSD is allowing the class to continue.

Like many other people in the area (and beyond), I was curious about just what was being taught – actual curricula, not just statements about it being “La Raza” studies preaching revolution.

The Native American Studies and African-American Studies classes are not considered controversial. You’ll get an idea of what’s being taught in the African American Studies class thanks to KXCI. This year, news host Amanda Shauger at Tucson’s KXCI Community Radio 91.3 broadcast Black History Month works by TUSD students enrolled in African American Studies, in addition to works by staff members and by community members. The entire podcast times in at about one hour, ten minutes, and is a total of 48 segments.

Hear the podcast and read the order of presentation here.

On this 20th day of Black History Month, I honor the Class of 2011 and each and every graduate who lives up to the challenge of improving the United States of America by advancing equality for all.


Gold and Slaves

USA 34-star Flag, 1861-1863

Lush dreams of a wealth provided by gold and slave labor. Who does that sound like? Old time Arizonans. That’s why Tucson flies the southern cross for rodeo events. Or one of the reasons, the other being to appeal to all the rodeo fans who sport the symbol on their bodies, trucks, and t-shirts. Mayor Walkup seems to love it, certainly supports it flying at the rodeo grounds. I don’t really care what agrarian symbols people choose to decorate their bodies, clothes and other personal items with. I do take issue with public funds being used to fly the flag at city-sanctioned events.

I’m a Yankee observing life in Arizona, which has been called the “Mississippi of the Southwest.”

I think there’s still some bitterness in the dirt here from 19th century people ticked off that the North put the kibosh on their slave empire dreams. Oh Well. In 1863, President Lincoln abolished slavery in the Arizona territory by signing into law the Arizona Organic Act.

If they had been able to hang in there and the North was putting them out of business this year, it’s easy to imagine Gov. Brewer gathering her troops to defend her slave state against Washington and Obama!

OK, that would make a good movie.

Meanwhile here’s some good reading on Arizona’s dream of getting rich off the backs of African slaves.

  1. Blood and Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest. Donald S. Frazier.
  2. Arizona Organic Act – Wiki
  3. The Civil War in Arizona: The Story of the California Volunteers, 1861-1865. Andrew E. Masich.

Horses, Horses, Horses

Rodeo and Buffalo Soldier Teaser Day
It’s almost Rodeo Week here in Tucson, which means it’s the time when Tucson is at its most Mississippi-ish.

The Real Cowboy Association is a rodeo-lovers organization that presents rodeos and raises awareness about Black cowboys. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think a Real Cowboy will get thrown off his game by a piece of fabric blowing in the wind, but I still don’t think Tucson running the southern cross for rodeo week is all that cool. Mayor Walkup disagrees. Whatever.

First Lake Charles Black Rodeo

More information about the Real Cowboy Association: Real Cowboy Association

I rode horses as a youth, before I switched over to motorcycles. I think a child gains a lot from interacting with large animals and from being able to hold their own, literally hold the reins, and give direction to something far larger and more powerful, than they. There’s also an undeniable connection to history and to horseback riders the world over. Attending the rodeo, and enjoying horseback riding is a great family activity. Though, again, I think the southern cross at the Rodeo Ground is a point of distraction for some southern Arizona families and would actually serve to keep them away.

In 2006, NPR did a story about a corral in Compton, Calif. Here’s a link to that story with text and audio: “Along for the Ride with Compton’s Junior Posse”

Then a few years later, Silent Noise productions made a short documentary about the Compton Jr. Posse. Here’s the trailer for that movie:

Most people who have heard more than a half-dozen Bob Marley songs have heard “Buffalo Soldiers.” When you’re in southern Arizona, you’re in the land of the Buffalo Soldiers. In Arizona, the Buffalo Soldiers, African-American soldiers, were stationed at several forts. The largest one was Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Ariz. Sierra Vista is about 20 miles from Mexico, as the crow flies, and about 35 miles from the Naco port of entry. This was a vital position for border issues and skirmishes with Pancho Villa, warring with Native Americans, and helping to keep the “Boomers” off of the Tribal lands. The “Boomers” were white people who would attempt a squatters’ strategy to take Tribal land. You can read more about that here in Frederic Remington’s Scout with The Buffalo Soldiers.

Colonel Charles Young

After 1916, the Buffalo Soldiers were no longer on horseback. Colonel Charles Young, a Westpoint graduate, was the first African-American to attain that rank. He commanded Fort Huachuca from 1916 to 1917.

Discover Southeast Arizona has a very good illustrated history of the Buffalo Soldiers on this page.

Southwest Association of Buffalo Soldiers – non-profit based in Sierra Vista, Ariz.

Buffalo Soldiers February Events – Arizona State Parks

National Parks Service History of Buffalo Soldiers in California: http://www.nps.gov/yose/historyculture/buffalo-soldiers.htm

And finally, Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Buffalo Soldier”