Archive for April, 2012

Last week I mentioned an African American community in Greenwood, Tulsa,  Oklahoma, that was thriving economically during the early 20th century. It was home to African Americans and had many successful black businesses as well as its own millionaires. A  massacre riot  occurred on June 1, 1921 when the city was air bombed and destroyed. I mentioned the city because the West not only provided ‘opportunities’ for White Americans but for also Black Americans and this is often erased. African Americans composed one third of the people who were relocated forcibly to Oklahoma due to the Trail of Tears.  Oklahoma was originally created with the intention of it being a Native American and African American state. This town to me represents a perfect connection between our studies on the West and on race in America. I thought of this connection after we watched the clip of Malcolm X’s speech. Malcolm X wanted the black community to provide for itself and reject what he felt to be America’s white ideals.  Many Americans do not know about this city and I felt as though it was important to introduce because this community did what Malcolm believed African Americans needed to do and it was successful before it was destroyed by KKK members who worked in partnership with state and local elected officials and re-enforcement. The riot occurred after a young Caucasian woman claimed that Dick Rowland, an African American man, had made inappropriate advances to her. Although this part of American history is often not mentioned, it is important to know because to me brings up the larger question about Malcolm X and Dr.King’s vision and which one is actually unfortunately more possible. This community attempted to live on its own. It had its own lawyers, doctors, hospitals, etc and look what happened to it. To me, this reshaped Black American history in profound ways that I cannot even put into words. This is so important because one can only imagine what would have happened had the city been allowed to continue growing on its own and then what it would have meant for the black community.  It also dismantles the misconception that many black youth ( I have witnessed this garbage myself, I tutor young children and they have all been led to believe this) are fed about African Americans and how they only live in poverty. I had tried to bring it up during class on Tuesday however what I was saying was not really clear so I wanted to use this post to bring some needed clarification.  Greenwood was a very successful tight knit community. The dollar circulated numerous times through the community (36 to 100 times)  before it left and money was exchanged hand to hand in part due to the Jim Crow laws. The city lost 600 of its businesses,  one thousand homes were burned down and between 1,500-3,00 people lost their lives. The city was absolutely positively annihilated.


Some sources for those who are interested:

Reconstructing the Dreamland: The Tulsa Riot of 1921: Race, Reparations,

 By Alfred L. Brophy, Randall Kenned

Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

 By Scott Ellsworth

P.S. I enjoyed this class a lot and I learned so much from not only Professor Simon but also all of you guys. You all introduced some new ideas and ways of thinking to me and I always appreciate new knowledge. Good luck with finals!


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While this video doesn’t have much to do with Ali, I think that it does say alot about the themes we have discussed over the course of the semester: prosperity, success, liberty, freedom, racism, government. Someone sent this video to me, and the message is great.

Charlie Chaplin is giving the speech in 1940 in ‘The Great Dictator’.

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The character of Will Kane in High Noon is a classic example of masculinity in Western films. Despite the fact that no one in town is willing to help him fight a returning killer, who has been pardoned on a legal technicality, he decides that it is his duty to stay in town and fight the killer instead of running away with his new wife. Although he says that this is because he knows the killer will track him down and/or kill again if he is not stopped, everyone in town believes that it is really due to his pride. In fact, the tag line of the movie was “The story of a man who was too proud to run.”

This idea of pride and masculinity was definitely prevalent in the 1950s on the whole, but I see parallels between Kane’s character and the events of the Korean war in particular. In a National Security Council Report in 1950, the Truman administration wrote “Communism was acting in Korea, just as Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese had ten, fifteen, and twenty years earlier. I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to fall Communist leaders would be emboldened to override nations closer to our own shores.” So it seems just as Kane’s pride would not let Miller return without a fight, the USA’s pride would not let Communists act again without a fight. While this might not have been intentional on the part of the director and/or scriptwriter of High Noon, it is interesting to see how current events shape society’s values and vice versa.

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Eat Beef


I spent the weekend in the sleepish Midwestern city of Milwaukee.  While I was taking a walk looking for a cup of coffee that wasn’t Starbucks, I saw a car with this bumper sticker.


This is great.  For starters, it bridges our conversations about the West with our discussions about McDonald’s and about hamburgers, right?  And think here, too, how the West is represented in gender terms.  But what is this really advocating?  What is it opposing?

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After watching Stagecoach (twice) I noticed a few instances where it seemed that the West was taming the situation, and not vise versa like we have discussed in class.

Normally, and as we have discussed, some force from the East moves into the West, bringing civilization and domesticity to the wild.  However, Ringo Kid (John Wayne) deserved some credit in taming the forces moving into the West.

He seems to appear in the movie suddenly, and we get the impression he has lived in the West for some time.  In this way he can be seen as a product of the West, an extension of it.  He is an outlaw on the run (that could be “wild” couldn’t it?) and is moving East when the stagecoach picks him up.

After entering the coach, one of the first things that happens is the doctor and the ‘gentlemen’ get into a verbal scuffle.  As soon as it heats up after the doctors insult, it is Ringo who calms the situation and gets the two to stop fighting.

Also, when everyone stops to eat at the reservation, the upper class people do not want to sit with the lower class.  It is Ringo who bridges the gap and keeps the situation under control, not seeing class but just seeing people.  He does not let anything escalate and patches up some of the social disconnect of the situation.

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There is no argument – Stagecoach is your typical Western movie.  From the panoramic views of the desert, always including Monument Valley, to the one street town, this movie has it all!

In the beginning of the movie, a few people from the first town, Tonto, New Mexico, left in a stagecoach for various reasons.  Some were in search of adventure and opportunity, some were asked to leave Tonto, and some were in search of loved ones.  The sense of adventure in this case lies in the ever-present fear of an attack from the Apache “savages.”  There is also the appeal of the unknown dangers and encounters that can arise in the desert.  Ms. Mallory has a baby at the house that they stop at and eventually loses her mind during the stagecoach journey, mostly because she fears that her husband is dead and is afraid to raise a baby without him, and Mr. Hatfield also dies.

In the beginning of their journey they come across the Ringo Kid, the outlaw that was accused of murder and left town to escape punishment.  He approaches the stagecoach calmly and gives himself up immediately.  I would not consider Ringo to be a typical outlaw though because even though he left town after being accused of the murder, he did not appear to be violent in nature and he seems innocent of the crime he was accused of.  Ringo physically embodies the outlaw archetype – rugged, handsome, manly, and strong, but he does not always act like the outlaw archetype.  He falls in love with Dallas, the young woman who is in search of a new beginning and some adventure.  In this way, he does continue with his outlaw-type behavior when he tries to steal a horse and head to his ranch across the border to wait for Dallas to join him, but overall, I do not picture him as the typical violent outlaw.

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For being, as I felt (as a person who cannot remember the last time I saw a Western), an unusually lighthearted Western, Stagecoach Run (1936) did not fail to deliver in the violence area. From the opening scene the movie centers itself around guns and fighting. Throughout the movie John Wayne’s character uses guns to make statements, get attention, threaten, and ultimately show down against the ‘bad guys.’ The movie focuses on a race between Wayne’s character Blair and stageline owner Cal Drake for a mail contract from the government. Drake offers Blair a line between their town and Crescent City, which turns out to be virtually a ghost town. When Blair and his friend Larry arrive in Crescent city, they storm into town on their horses firing away with their guns into the air. An entrance that would seem to be reserved for outlaws, but is shown in this movie as a way to simply declare an arrival even if there is only two people in the town to arrive to.

A gun is later used in the movie as a way to stop a traveler from drinking poisoned water. Blair rides across a man about to take a sip from the cup he filled with the water source and so to stop him and save his life, he shoots the cup out of his hand. This can also be seen as a statement against the western land. It shows that yes, this land is dangerous and even something that is universally known to quench thirst and in all ways be good for you like water can hold poisonous secrets. However, the people moving to the west have their technology (guns) and modes of transportation to conquer the land no matter what this frontier may throw at them. It seems to express that guns are more powerful then nature. In fact, the entire movie does not focus as much on the land as most other westerns do. When Blair is traveling between towns they barely ever show the ride to and from, just the final destination, the cities that were able to grow over the harsh frontiers. Even ghost towns like Crescent City are able to bring themselves back from near extinction brought about by the harsh land to become a city that quickly begins to thrive again.

The only time that the frontier is really put on display is during the race at the end of the movie. That is also the time when the violence  reaches its pick. Instead of trying to out run each other with their stagecoaches, both Drake’s men and Blair participate in a shout out that lasts the entire span of their race. This is also a statement against the land. While traveling throughout the west, the land is the real enemy with its harsh weather and terrain and wild frontier. However in the movie, Blair and his opponents have no trouble racing through this harsh landscape. It is each other’s guns and the harshness of the people in the west that prove to be the ultimate enemy downplaying the severeness of the land.

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