Once neglected, racial minorities are now the focus of intense interest among historians of the American West, who have come to recognize the roles of African American, Chinese, and Mexican people in shaping the frontier. Racial Frontiers is both a highly original work, particularly in its emphasis on racial minority women, and a masterful synthesis of the literature in this young field.
De León depicts a U.S. West populated by settlers anticipating opportunities for upward mobility, jockeying for position as they adapted to new surroundings, and adjusting to new political and economic systems. Minority groups discarded unworkable political traditions that had followed them from their homelands and sought to participate in a democracy that they trusted would see to their well-being. Many embraced capitalism in preference to the economic systems they had left behind but refused to give up their cultural traditions. The result was a U.S. West of many colors.
Known as a skilled writer, De León tells countless stories of the lives of men and women to guide the readers through his narrative. Personal histories and revealing quotations illustrate the struggles and victories of the newcomers, enriching our understanding of the settlement of the trans-Mississippi West since the middle of the nineteenth century.