So this weekend, I was flipping through HBOmax looking for a movie to watch with my mama and every time I have to CHOOSE a movie I get anxiety because one thing about me is that if you present me with too many options I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO CHOOSE. Also, I get distracted because HEY did you know that 3:10 to Yuma (2007) is streaming? I added it to my list ‘cause nobody in my house likes cowboy movies but me really, and I actually REALLY LIKE this movie both the old one AND the new one (because I REALLY LIKE Christian Bale) which I first saw coincidentally when I lived in Yuma. I used to work in graveyard shift and I watched whatever movies they had to rent for guests in this hotel where I used to work and NO this is not part of the BHFOTD this is just how my brain works when I’m writing so I hope nobody ever expects anything different. ANYWAY, THEN I got to thinking about how a) I love cowboy MOVIES but not SHOWS which are two VERY different things in my brain and b) there really aren’t a LOT of black cowboy movies (I looked, because I like to show my work and I am insulted to say that they called the dark tower a black cowboy movie and NO).

And then I remembered that a black cowboy movie JUST came out last year and REASON that I remembered it at all is because it Yuma Territorial Prison is a main character in BOTH of these movies. I loved this movie guys! And while I was looking into this NOT BHFOTD I realized a couple things:

  1. I wrote a fact already about the star of this movie, Nat Love and this story wasn’t in it because it’s fiction! But still a good story. Also,
  2. Did you know the original Lone Ranger was black?
  3. He was ALSO in The Harder They Fall, by his actual name: Bass Reeves!

Bass Reeves was born into slavery in Crawford County, Arkansas, in 1838. He was named after his grandfather, Bass Washington. Reeves and his family were enslaved by Arkansas state legislator William Steele Reeves. When Bass was eight (about 1846), William Reeves moved to Grayson County, Texas, near Sherman in the Peters Colony. It appears plausible that Reeves was kept in bondage by William Steele Reeves’s son, Colonel George R. Reeves. When the American Civil War began, George Reeves joined the Confederate Army, taking Bass with him. It is unclear how, and exactly when, Bass Reeves escaped, but at some point during the Civil War, he gained his freedom. One account recalls how Bass Reeves and George Reeves had an altercation over a card game. Bass beat the brakes off George, and fled to the Indian Territory where he lived (and learned their languages) among the Cherokee, Creeks and Seminoles until he was freed by the 13rd amendment in 1865.

As a freedman, Reeves moved to Arkansas and farmed until 1875 when Isaac Parker was appointed federal judge for the Indian Territory. Parker appointed James F. Fagan as U.S. marshal, directing him to hire 200 deputy U.S. marshals. Fagan had heard about Reeves, who knew the Territory and could speak several Native languages. He recruited him as a deputy; Reeves was the first black deputy to serve west of the Mississippi River (where the green grass grows all around all around, where the green grass grows all around). *Clears throat* Reeves was assigned as a deputy U.S. marshal for the Western District of Arkansas, which had responsibility also for the Native reservation Territory. He served there until 1893. That year he transferred to the Eastern District of Texas in Paris, Texas, for a short while. In 1897, he was transferred again, serving at the Muskogee Federal Court in the Native Territory.

Reeves worked for 32 years as a federal peace officer in the Indian Territory, and became one of Judge Parker’s most valued deputies. When he retired in 1907, Reeves had on his record over 3,000 arrests of felons. Historian Art Burton makes the argument that based on the sheer number of people Reeves arrested without taking any serious injury, coupled with the fact that many of these arrested were incarcerated in the Detroit House of Correction, the same city where the Lone Ranger radio plays were broadcast on WXYZ.

This theory has been disputed. Because Hollywood would Never Change the Race of A Real Person To Make Them White. [Again. I like to show my work, kids]

Anyway. Bass Reeves’s legacy lives on!

  • In 1992, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
  • In 2011, the US-62 Bridge, which spans the Arkansas River between Muskogee and Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, was renamed the Bass Reeves Memorial Bridge.
  • In May 2012, a bronze statue of Reeves by Oklahoma sculptor Harold Holden was erected in Pendergraft Park in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
  • And in 2013, he was inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame.  
  • He has also been memorialized in books, games, television and film. He was most recently played by Delroy Lindo’s fine ass in The Harder They Fall in 2021. Ride ‘em, cowboy, or whatever the gals be saying.

Happy Monday! Hope you enjoyed today’s blackity black fact! If you’re wondering what I ended up choosing to watch, I chose Miss Congeniality, then promptly took a 2 hour nap and missed the entire movie.