Black Women in the West: American Songster Radio Season 2 Episode 1

Oct 26, 2018

The second season of Dom Flemon's American Songster Radio podcast is released today, Friday, October 26.

In this episode of American Songster Radio, Dom discusses the song “Black Woman” and revisits the lives of figures like Bridget “Biddy” Mason and “Stagecoach” Mary Fields.  He also shares his own version of “Black Woman,” performed live on stage.

Vera Ward Hall sang the field holler “Black Woman” for song collector John A. Lomax in the 1930s. Over the next few decades, John Lomax and his son Alan would record Hall extensively for the Library of Congress.

Although “Black Woman” isn’t a traditional cowboy song, it has familiar themes of ranching and the pain of leaving loved ones behind.  Dom includes this song on his album Black Cowboys to honor the thousands of African American women who built churches, schools, and communities, bringing structure to the new territories.

In the 1995 book Black Women of the Old West, author William Loren Katz writes, “It has been argued that since African American women were a tiny minority within a Western minority, omitting them [from popular culture, including books, music, and film] was hardly an act of discrimination. Although few in number, they earned an honored niche in the saga of the wilderness. As the nation grapples with the history of its multi-cultural past, the story of the frontier African American women deserves a telling.”