From the earliest incursions into the Americas by Spanish explorers to the California Gold Rush and to the Oklahoma land rush, African Americans have been present at every frontier and have been active participants in transforming those frontier settlements into thriving communities. Those experiences have been represented in a variety of forms, memoirs, novels, film, and television, even as literary and cultural criticism has neglected that body of work. This chapter surveys the field of texts related to the African American West and establishes three central concepts for understanding those texts, erasure, double-consciousness, and the trickster tradition. All three concepts are representational strategies used by African American artists to adapt unfriendly and even hostile cultural narratives (such as the genre western) to articulate their own experiences.
Keywords: African American West, Frontier, Erasure, Double-Consciousness, Trickster