Lessons from Colorado: How the West Was Won

Go Lean Commentary

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America – a large country that spans from sea to shiny sea –  is the richest, most powerful country in the world. That is today; but this was not always the case. In fact, when the country started in 1776, it only featured 13 colonies (States today) on the mid-coast of the Atlantic Ocean, from Georgia up to New Hampshire. There were no territories on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico nor near the western extremities of the Pacific Ocean.

Question: How and why did the expansion happen from East to West?

Answer: Its complicated!

It was a philosophy embedded in all societal engines of early America (economics, security and governance), branded Manifest Destiny – see the encyclopedic definition in the Appendix below.

The book Go Lean…Caribbean makes an important point about US history and its quest to expand across the North American continent. The book asserts that there are lessons for the Caribbean to glean and learn about nation-building. This is how the subject is addressed in the book: How the West Was Won. This declarative statement is presented as a question and an answer (Page 142) under this title:

10 Lessons from the American West

The Bottom Line on How the West Was Won

The concept of Cowboys (and Indians), riding off in the sunset is embedded into every American child’s DNA. The Old West has been a constant feature and inspiration in American literature, film and TV shows; the concept is enamored by readers and movie-goers around the world. In 1997 the film: How the West Was Won (1962) was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. In addition to the film, this title is featured in a number of American media productions:

  • How the West Was Won (TV series), a 1970s television series loosely based on the film
  • How the West Was Won (Bing Crosby album) (1959)
  • How the West Was Won (Led Zeppelin album), a 2003 live album featuring the band live in 1972
  • How the West Was Won, a 2002 album by rapper Luni Coleone
  • How the West Was Won, a song by Laibach on the 1987 album Opus Dei

Despite the projected image, the America of Old was always a pluralistic democracy; there were Africans (slaves and their descendants), Native Americans, Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Pacific Islanders, etc.) and Eastern Europeans. Those that worked so hard to build America were men, women and children of many races and ethnicities. So the “concept of Cowboys riding off in the sunset [that] is embedded into every American child’s DNA” was inaccurately portrayed as only those of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) persuasion.

Question: How the West Was Won?

Answer: With the contributions of many different people. See VIDEO here:

VIDEO: African-American Cowboy – PART 1https://youtu.be/JAr2UzErToA

Published on Jun 9, 2010 – Documentary: “African-American Cowboy: The Forgotten Man of the West”. Had to break it into two parts due to YouTube requirements at the time. You can find the complete 14-minute documentary at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jwlM….

PART II: https://youtu.be/kvgh7Pr8s-E

  • Category: Education
  • License: Standard YouTube License

Yes, there were Black Cowboys … the image and brand of those who “Won the West” needs to be pluralistic, not just WASP.

… this is the charter of the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center in Denver, Colorado. This site “preserves the history and culture of those African American men and women who helped settle and develop the American West. Located in the former home of Dr. Justina Ford, the first Black woman doctor in Denver. Exhibits on African American cowboys including Bill Pickett“.

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African-American cowboys made up approximately 25% of the 35,000 cowboys in the Western Frontier during the 1870s and 1880s.

This is truly How the West Was Won.

This museum presents a unique collection of artifacts and profiles of people, things and equipment of Black Cowboys and their stories of contributions to the great American Western experience.

The emphasis of the museum’s collection is the contribution of black cowboys, ranchers, farmers, miners and buffalo soldiers on the development of the West . The artifacts are available to scholars with advance reservation.

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Field Trips and Guided Tours
The museum offers students an educational and entertaining experience through guided tours or a self-directed outing. The museum tour meets the Colorado Model Content Standards and can be customized to your students’ educational needs.  – Source: BAWMHC.org

There are many lessons that Caribbean stakeholders can learn from developments in Denver and the State of Colorado. This is the theme of this series of commentaries on lessons that have been learned by Caribbean stakeholders visiting, observing and reporting on the US State of Colorado. (All non-encyclopedic photos in this commentary were snapped in Colorado by Bahamian student Camille Lorraine).

We have so much in common with this community. We have also built our Caribbean homelands with the blood, sweat and tears of many different contributors. In particular, Caribbean member-states have demographic compositions of Africans (29 of 30 territories have this majority), European, Amerindians and Asians (Indian, Chinese, etc.).

This commentary continues the 5-part series – this is entry 3 of 5 – on the subject of Lessons from Colorado. There are so many lessons that we must consider from this land-locked US State; good ones and bad ones. In fact, the full list of 5 entries are detailed as follows:

  1. Lessons from Colorado – Common Sense of Eco-Tourism
  2. Lessons from Colorado – Legalized Marijuana: Heavy-lifting!
  3. Lessons from Colorado – How the West Was Won
  4. Lessons from Colorado – Water Management Art & Science
  5. Lessons from Colorado – Black Ghost Towns – “Booker T. turning in his grave”

The book Go Lean…Caribbean calls for the elevation of Caribbean society, to re-focus, re-boot, and optimize all the societal engines so as to make the 30 member-states of the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play.  Thank you Colorado for this lesson from the past on how museums can play a vital role in disseminating truth and fostering reconciliation; these are necessary ingredients for nation-building of a multicultural society.

In a previous blog-commentary commemorating the opening of the new museum in Washington, DC – National Museum of African American History and Culture – it was highlighted how America featured some dark episodes in its history, but that the historic sacrifices of the African sons and daughters contributed greatly to the great society that America became:

This discussion of museums and reconciliations align with the objections of the book Go Lean…Caribbean, in that it serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). The purpose of this roadmap is to elevate the economy in our Caribbean region, while harnessing the individual genius abilities – as in the arts. This Go Lean/CU roadmap employs strategies, tactics and implementations to impact its prime directives; identified with the following 3 statements:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

While the Go Lean book is primarily an economic elevation roadmap for the Caribbean, it also details the eco-systems surrounding the business of the arts; there is consideration for jobs and entrepreneurship. The book declares (Page 230) that “art can be a business enabler, [while also serving as an] expression for civic pride and national identity”.

There is even a plan to foster museums that commemorate Caribbean history and culture in a new Caribbean Capital District. (The roadmap calls for a neutral location, among the 30 member-states, to host leaders of the Federation’s Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government). See the quotation here from the book (Page 230):

      CU Administered Museums
      Modeled after the Smithsonian, the CU “mother” (first-tier) museums will be placed in the Capital District. There will also be “child” museums scattered through out the regions with touring exhibitions.

The Go Lean book identified this vision of reconciliations-museums-art early in the book (Page 10 – 14), as implied in the following pronouncements in the opening Declaration of Interdependence:

      Preamble: As the history of our region and the oppression, suppression and repression of its indigenous people is duly documented, there is no one alive who can be held accountable for the prior actions, and so we must put aside the shackles of systems of repression to instead formulate efficient and effective systems to steer our own destiny.
      As the colonial history of our region was initiated to create economic expansion opportunities for our previous imperial masters, the structures of government instituted in their wake have not fostered the best systems for prosperity of the indigenous people.
      xxxii. Whereas the cultural arts and music of the region are germane  to the quality of Caribbean life, and the international appreciation of Caribbean life, the Federation must implement the support systems to teach, encourage, incentivize, monetize and promote the related industries for arts and music in domestic and foreign markets. These endeavors will make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play.

In addition, there were other commentaries that also addressed the wisdom of museums-monuments and the business of the arts; see this sample here:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=9897 Wynward’s Art Walk – The Energy of the Arts
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=4145 The African Monument in Dakar, Senegal, Africa
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3292 Art Basel Miami – a Testament to the Spread of Art & Culture

There are lessons that the Caribbean today can learn from Colorado’s past. There are economic benefits – imagine art and monument tourism – to many stakeholders; the Go Lean roadmap calls for a federal museum in the CU‘s Capital District.

Most importantly, there are benefits from reconciling the past with the present; to tell the truth of How the West Was Won:

The Good Old Days weren’t always good and tomorrow isn’t as bad as it seems – Song Lyrics: “Keeping the Faith” by Billie Joel.

Now is the time for all of the Caribbean, the people (Cowboys & Indians) and societal leaders (business, security and government), to lean-in to this Go Lean roadmap. Caribbean causes can also be won! We can all work to make our homelands better places to live, work and play. 🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix – Manifest Destiny

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In the 19th century, manifest destiny was a widely held belief in the United States that its settlers were destined to expand across North America. There are three basic themes to manifest destiny:

  • The special virtues of the American people and their institutions
  • The mission of the United States to redeem and remake the west in the image of agrarian America
  • An irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty[3]

Historian Frederick Merk says this concept was born out of “a sense of mission to redeem the Old World by high example … generated by the potentialities of a new earth for building a new heaven”.[4]

Historians have emphasized that “manifest destiny” was a contested concept—pre-civil war Democrats endorsed the idea but many prominent Americans (such as Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and most Whigs) rejected it. Historian Daniel Walker Howe writes, “American imperialism did not represent an American consensus; it provoked bitter dissent within the national polity … Whigs saw America’s moral mission as one of democratic example rather than one of conquest.”[5]

Newspaper editor John O’Sullivan is generally credited with coining the term manifest destiny in 1845 to describe the essence of this mindset, which was a rhetorical tone;[6] however, the unsigned editorial titled “Annexation” in which it first appeared was arguably written by journalist and annexation advocate Jane Cazneau.[7] The term was used by Democrats in the 1840s to justify the war with Mexico and it was also used to divide half of Oregon with the United Kingdom. But manifest destiny always limped along because of its internal limitations and the issue of slavery, says Merk. It never became a national priority. By 1843 John Quincy Adams, originally a major supporter of the concept underlying manifest destiny, had changed his mind and repudiated expansionism because it meant the expansion of slavery in Texas.[8]

Merk concluded:

From the outset Manifest Destiny—vast in program, in its sense of continentalism—was slight in support. It lacked national, sectional, or party following commensurate with its magnitude. The reason was it did not reflect the national spirit. The thesis that it embodied nationalism, found in much historical writing, is backed by little real supporting evidence.[9]

The day before finalizing the wording of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail “I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”[10]

Source: Retrieved August 19, 2017 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_destiny

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