Blackdom, New Mexico: The Significance of the Afro-Frontier, 1900–1930
Blackdom, New Mexico, was a township that lasted aboutthirty years. In this book, Timothy E. Nelson situates the township’s storywhere it belongs: along the continuum of settlement in Mexico’s Northern Frontier.Dr. Nelson illuminates the set of conscious efforts that helped Black pioneersdevelop Blackdom Township into a frontier boomtown.
“Blackdom” started as an inherited idea of a nineteenth-centuryAfrotopia. The idea of creating a Blackdom was refined within Blackinstitutions as part of the perpetual movement of Black Colonization. In 1903,thirteen Black men, encouraged by the 1896 Plessy decision, formed the BlackdomTownsite Company and set out to make Blackdom a real place in New Mexico, wherethey were outside the reach of Jim Crow laws.
Many believed that Blackdom was simply abandoned. However,new evidence shows that the scheme to build generational wealth continued toexist throughout the twentieth century in other forms. During Blackdom’s boomtimes,in December 1919, Blackdom Oil Company shifted town business from aregenerative agricultural community to a more extractive model. Nelson hasuncovered new primary source materials that suggest for Blackdom a newlydiscovered third decade. This story has never been fully told or contextualizeduntil now.Reoriented to Mexico’s “northern frontier,” oneobserves Black ministers, Black military personnel, and Black freemasons whocolonized as part of the transmogrification of Indigenous spaces into theAmerican West. Nelson’s concept of the Afro-Frontier evokes a “Turnerian West,”but it is also fruitfully understood as a Weberian “Borderland.” Its history highlightsa brief period and space that nurtured Black cowboy culture. While Blackdom’scivic presence was not lengthy, its significance—and that of the Afro-Frontier—isan important window in the history of Afrotopias, Black Consciousness, and thenotion of an American West.
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