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The Western Migration
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Courtesy, Colorado Historical Society [CHS-X3041 / 20003041]

C. Waldo Love

Jim Beckwourth

A few African Americans, like Jim Beckwourth, migrated to the far western territories as early as the 1840s. Born of a white father and a black mother in April 1798, Beckwourth escaped an apprenticeship to a St. Louis blacksmith and traveled west in the 1820s. He took a job with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and became an experienced trapper. In 1824, he was adopted by the Crow Indians, married the daughter of the chief, and eventually gained honorary chief status, forging a lifelong friendship with the Crows. Beckwourth also traveled throughout the western and southern frontiers, working as a guide, prospecting for gold, serving as an army scout during the third Seminole War, and riding for the Pony Express. Later in life, he discovered a pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains that enabled travelers to reach California more quickly and safely.

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