Was Bass Reeves — a former slave turned deputy U.S. marshal — the real Lone Ranger?

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tags: slavery, African American history, American West, Lone Ranger, National Post (Canada)



Art Burton listened intently as the old man on the other end of the phone cleared his throat and began telling him a story. Burton had only been researching the life of Bass Reeves for a short while but that afternoon what Reverend Haskell James Shoeboot, the 98-year-old part-Cherokee Indian, was about to tell him would persuade Burton he had stumbled upon one of the greatest stories never told.

Born in 1838, Bass Reeves was a former slave-turned-lawman who served with the U.S. Marshals Service for 32 years at the turn of the 20th century in part of eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas known as Indian Territory. Though he was illiterate, Reeves became an expert tracker and detective – a man who, in Burton’s words, “walked in the valley of death every day for 35 years and brought in some of the worst outlaws from that period”....

It reaffirmed what Burton had suspected: that (Armie Hammer’s caucasian portrayal aside in the movie The Lone Ranger) Bass Reeves — perhaps the first black commissioned deputy marshal west of the Mississippi — could well have been one of the greatest lawmen of the Wild West. But most people hadn’t heard of him. Over the next 20 years, Reeves would become an obsession for Burton, culminating in a very interesting hypothesis, which he puts forward in his book Black Gun, Silver Star....




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