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“This Strange White World”

“This Strange White World”

Race and Place in Era Bell Thompson’s American Daughter and RoseGordon’s Newspaper Writing

(p.75) 3 “This Strange White World”
Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos
Michael K. Johnson
University Press of Mississippi

Era Bell Thompson in her North Dakota memoir American Daughter revises the traditional opposition of frontier literature—the difference between West and East, the wilderness and the metropolis—to symbolize double-consciousness. Moving west to the frontier means separating from the black community and becoming part of a “strange white world.” American Daughter describes a sense of restless movement between West and East, reflecting the difficulty of that choice. As did Thompson, Rose Gordon grew up in a pre-dominantly white frontier community, White Sulphur Springs, Montana. In contrast to Thompson, who eventually moved to Chicago, Gordon spent her entire life in her western home. Juxtaposed here are different accounts of black western experience by two African American women. Rose Gordon’s writing—mostly contributions to her local newspaper—reflects her strategies for making home in one particular place, a story of settlement that converges and diverges with accounts of black western travel.

Keywords:   Frontier, Montana, Memoir, Double-Consciousness, African American Women

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