The popularity of the song Old Town Road by Lil Nas X might be making readers curious about the history of African Americans in the western United States. We’ve compiled a collection of non-fiction and historical fictional books to get you started!
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
We just had to include this one for the beautiful painting on the cover of a mother and her child framed by a golden western landscape. It tells the story of America and African Americans through the eyes of a fictional family.
Aunt Clara Brown: Official Pioneer by Linda Lowery; illustrations by Janice Lee Porter
A biography of the freed slave, Clara Brown, who made her fortune in Colorado and used her money to bring other former slaves there to begin new lives.
Fearless Mary: Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver by Tami Charles; illustrated by Claire Almon
A picture book telling the true story of Mary Fields, aka “Stagecoach Mary,” a trailblazing African American woman who drove a stagecoach in the American West.
The Legend of Bass Reeves: Being the True and Fictional Account of the Most Valiant Marshal in the West by Gary Paulsen
Bass Reeves was born into slavery, and though the laws of his country enslaved him and his mother, when he became a free man he served the law with such courage and honor that he was known and respected all over the Indian Territory. Gary Paulsen’s dramatic account of the life of Bass Reeves, through stories both real and imagined, make him come alive as a boy and a man.
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrations by R. Gregory Christie
A picture book biography of Bass Reeves, a lawman in the territory that would someday become Oklahoma.
Neil Armstrong and Nat Love, Space Cowboys by Steve Sheinkin; illustrations by Neil Swaab
When a spaceship carrying Neil Armstrong accidentally time travels to 1869 Texas, cowboy Nat Love decides to trade in his horse for a trip to the Moon, and step-siblings Abby and Doc must untwist history and get everyone back to their own time.
Nat Love by Deborah Underwood
A short biography of Nat Love, an African-American cowboy during the 1800s.
The Journal of Joshua Loper: A Black Cowboy by Walter Dean Myers
In 1871 Joshua Loper, a fictional sixteen-year-old black cowboy, records his experience making his first cattle drive under an unsympathetic trail boss.
Bill Pickett: Wild West Cowboy by Elaine Landau
A biography of Bill Pickett, the black Texan who introduced bulldogging to rodeos.
Let ‘er Buck! George Fletcher, the People’s Champion by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrated by Gordon C. James
A picture book biography of George Fletcher, who loved horses from an early age. When he unfairly lost the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up to a white man, the outraged audience declared him the “people’s champion.”
Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America by Tonya Bolden
This book recounts the story of the 1914 disappearance of Sarah Rector, an African American girl who was part of the Creek Indian people and whose land had made her wealthy. Discover what Sarah’s story reveals about race, money and American society in the early 20th century.