"VanEpps-Taylor's well researched and readable volume will long stand as the most thorough volume on the subject."—Western Historical Quarterly "Forgotten Lives [is] a solid, well-researched contribution to the growing literature on the black West."—Montana, the Magazine of Western History
Forgotten Lives is full of "fascinating and hard-won information about this small but vital group."—Minnesota History
Throughout South Dakota’s history, African Americans have been vastly outnumbered by their white and American Indian neighbors. Under reported as well, they have been misrepresented by historians, journalists, even census-takers. However, from the first African Americans to visit the Northern Great Plains as fur traders in the early 1800s to twentieth-century voting-rights advocates or professionals recruited after World War II, African Americans have pioneered here. They have participated in the state’s successes and failures and contributed to its rich history.
In Forgotten Lives, Betti VanEpps-Taylor teases these South Dakotans’ stories out of newspaper accounts, census records, early social histories, and oral histories. Her insights into the lives and communities of this small but vital minority span two centuries and focus on the well known as well as the local. Prominent figures such as York, who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition, and Oscar Micheaux, the acclaimed filmmaker, fit neatly into the timeline, alongside less-famous laborers, river men, soldiers, seamstresses, business owners, miners, lawyers, homesteaders, midwives, doctors, and town leaders. Their stories offer much to twenty-first-century Americans still struggling to come to grips with their racial history.
"VanEpps-Taylor does an amazing job in this book. Her research is extremely thorough, her writing is creative and conversational, and she has a remarkable ability to flesh out real people from at-times sketchy information. Throughout my reading I was amazed at her mastery in gathering notes from several sources and mixing them together to create a cohesive depiction of our African American pioneers. I am not from South Dakota, nor am I African American (and neither is the author), yet I found the book a fascinating portrait of American history of the time. It was difficult to put it down--I would highly recommend this book!"—LibraryThing
"The overall content of this impressive book reaches far beyond the expectations of its title. Black history in general is given a fresh insight with this detailed exploration of the early men and women who found new roots and new hope in the north-central plains of the country. The families and their contributions to racially-mixed communities are brought to life in this thoughtful and well-written volume. A different light is shown of residents in familiar towns like Deadwood and on the services of the historically-nebulous Buffalo Soldiers. This book is an admirable effort in its scope, and a valuable, accurate, and enlightening addition to the history of the western plains."—True West Magazine
"This book is a must read for writers who want to portray a true and complete picture of life on the plains and in the Black Hills of South Dakota."—Roundup Magazine