This is a sort of autobiography of Oscar Micheaux's early life. He did change names of some people and places for some reason. But, one assumes, the events are more-or-less accurate. Of course, we've just learned, in Prairie Fires
, how little of the events in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books were fact and and how many were fiction. Basically, I got engaged by a long, multi-thread, twitter rant by Ana Mardoll
about the Wilder books as she was "live tweeting" her reading of Prairie Fires
. That got me thinking about homesteaders, like my great grandparents, which reminded me of an African American homesteader, Oscar Micheaux. I'd read Micheaux' so-called novel, The Homesteader
, and thought to read this book. As nearly as I can remember, much of the action in this book is similar to that in the latter. But it was a worthwhile read none the less.
One of the interesting features of the book is its many discussions of the development of the newly settled areas of South Dakota. Of course that would be newly settled by people who weren't already living there. The Native Americans, of course, were shoved from or swindled out of their lands. Anyway, new towns would be sited, but their prosperity or not depended greatly on where the railroad would run. The towns, if seems often preceded the railroad beds, and many mistakes were made, so to speak. There was lots of competition between towns to get the railroad folks to run their lines by their particular towns.
The action in this book takes place in the very early 20th century, around 1907 or thereabouts. Micheaux settled in one of the most southern counties of S. Dakota, only three or four counties west of the Minnesota line. The interest for me is that my great grandparents settled in the most eastern county, and along the southern border of Dakota Terrirory, some 30 years previously. So, it would seem, the opening of S. Dakota took some time to evolve.
Anyway, it's a fascinating read, all the more so because it features a young African American who was also desirous of achieving the American Dream, and who, in many ways, succeeded at that, albeit in the long term not as a farmer. Micheaux' fame comes primarily from his career as a film producer and director, beginning some five to ten years after his homesteading activities.