GREAT BLACK PEOPLE IN HISTORY Vol: Cowboys, Generals,Soldiers, Politicians and more

Joined May 10, 2013
[h1]Was an African American cop the real Lone Ranger?[/h1]
By Sheena McKenzie, CNN

updated 12:15 PM EDT, Tue August 6, 2013

(CNN)  -- More than a century before Johnny Depp wore a terrifying crow headpiece in new Disney film "The Lone Ranger," another hero of the Wild West was carefully arranging his own remarkable disguise.

Sometimes he dressed as a preacher, at other times a tramp, and occasionally even a woman.

But beneath the elaborate costumes was always Bass Reeves -- a 19th-century Arkansas slave who became a legendary Deputy U.S. Marshal, capturing more than 3,000 criminals with his flamboyant detective skills, super strength and supreme horsemanship.

Sound familiar? As one historian argues, Reeves could have been the real-life inspiration behind one of America's most beloved fictional characters -- the Lone Ranger.
"Many of Reeves' personal attributes and techniques in catching desperadoes were similar to the Lone Ranger," says Art Burton, author of "Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves."

"He was bigger than the Lone Ranger -- he was a combination of the Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes and Superman," Burton told CNN. "But because he was a black man his story has been buried. He never got the recognition he deserved."

Legendary Lone Ranger

It's a world apart from the fictional Lone Ranger, who remains one of most the iconic Wild West heroes of the 20th century.

First appearing on a Detroit radio station in 1933, the masked man on a white stallion who brought bad guys to justice was hugely successful, with the series running for over two decades. It spawned novels, comic books and an eight-year TV show starring the most iconic Lone Ranger of all -- actor Clayton Moore.

Indeed, Disney's new film -- featuring Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp as his trusty native American Indian sidekick Tonto -- is just the latest in a long line of films depicting the legendary lawman.

So what's that got to do with Bass Reeves -- one of the country's first African American marshals, who was born almost 100 years before the Lone Ranger made his radio debut?

Hi-Ho Silver!

Quite a lot, argues Burton, pointing to similarities such as their gray horses, penchant for disguises, use of American Indian trackers, and unusual calling cards -- Reeves gave folks a silver dollar to remember him by, while the Lone Ranger left silver bullets.

As for the iconic black mask, the link is more symbolic. "Blacks at that time wore an invisible mask in a world that largely ignored them -- so in that societal sense, Reeves also wore a mask," said Burton, a lecturer at South Suburban College in Illinois.
"When the Lone Ranger first started appearing in comic books he wore a black mask that covered his entire face. Why would they do that? There was deep physiological connection going on."

Then there's the Detroit link. Many of the thousands of criminals captured by Reeves were sent to the House of Corrections in Detroit -- the same city where the Lone Ranger character was created by George Trendle and Fran Striker.

"It's not beyond belief that all those felons were talking about a black man who had these attributes and the stories got out," said Burton. "I haven't been able to prove conclusively that Reeves was the inspiration for the Lone Ranger, but he was the closest person in real life who had these characteristics."

Real life superhero

In fact, if the newspaper clippings, federal documents, and handed-down stories are anything to go by, Reeves wasn't just a lawman -- he was a 6 foot 2 inch moustachioed muscleman who was so honorable he even arrested his own son.

Born a slave in Arkansas in 1838, Reeves headed to the Civil War front line in the 1860s, working as a servant for his master in the Confederate Army.

While there, he managed to escape to the Indian Territory -- now the state of Oklahoma -- living with native American Indians and learning their languages and tracking skills.

He was a combination of the Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes and Superman
Art Burton, historian

So renowned were the father-of-10's shooting skills and horsemanship, that in 1875 he was appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal.

"He was a big guy for his time," said Burton. "If you got in a fight with Reeves it was the worst decision you could make in your life -- it accounted to suicide.

"He was also an excellent horseman -- the Indians taught him how to make himself appear smaller in the saddle, helping him with disguises."

Such was the skilled rider's love of horses, he even bred them on his farm. Indeed, many of the first U.S. jockeys were African American slaves who had originally worked in their master's stables.

Lost legacy?

In his 32-year career, Reeves became a Wild West celebrity, with folk songs springing up about the marshal with almost mythical strength.

He died in 1910, at the impressive age of 71, just as segregation laws were starting to take effect in his home state.

Last year, a seven-meter bronze statue of Reeves, in all his gun-slinging glory atop a horse, was unveiled in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

"He's one of America's most important heroes and it's sad his story isn't known more than it is," said Burton. "But unfortunately, the majority of black history has been buried.

"Even today, nobody knows where Reeves is buried -- I like to tell people he's still in disguise."
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Joined Mar 26, 2013
i remember reading about this guy a while ago, I think he was also used as the basis for Django
Joined Jul 22, 2003
I'm definitely getting the book about this guy. I love stuff like this.

There are so many great Black men that dramatically influenced the world we live in today in recent history, but unfortunately their stories have mostly been erased purposefully because the idea of a Black man being as powerful and influential as that is unacceptable in Western society.

Y'all should look up the story of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas. He was a General during the French Revolution, and became the most powerful man in France next to Napoleon, who had him thrown in prison then killed after deeming him too much of a threat to his power. Dumas was the known as the greatest soldier in all of Europe, and he was a Black man born a a slave in Haiti who would become Count of Maulde, then denounce the title and lead Frances military to victory throught Europe and the Middle East. They say that Napoleon had him put in jail after they reached the Middle East. The people there would disrespect Napoleon and fight him intensely in battle and never thought personally was in charge until he announced himself to their leaders. But whenever Dumas was there they wouldn't even fight him, they would welcome him and assumed he was France's King, and wanted to build relationships with him. At this point him and Napoleon were equal in power and rank, but Napoleon used people's fear of a powerful Black man to orchestrate his demise.

His son Alexander Dumas is the guy who wrote Three Musketeers, Count of Monte Cristo, and Man In the Iron Mask. If you saw Django then you know that blew Calcin Candies mind.

I learned about him from reading this book. It just won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize:

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Joined Jul 22, 2003

We need a "Great Black People in History" thread.

So many typos in my previous post lol #notgunnaedit
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Joined Oct 10, 2008
Good looks fellas on providing me some quality reading at work keep em coming
Joined Jul 25, 2013
I gained so much valuable information about black men who accomplished great things by reading these two books. Dumas and his descendants are also in this book as well. You'd be surprised at the amount of black generals Napoleon and France used in their armies to take over other countries.
Joined Aug 1, 2013
It's kind of irritating how whitewashed history and media depictions of history have become. In the new movie both the Lone Ranger and Tonto are white, but even in the old one Tonto was at least Native American.
Joined Jul 20, 2012
It's kind of irritating how whitewashed history and media depictions of history have become. In the new movie both the Lone Ranger and Tonto are white, but even in the old one Tonto was at least Native American.
Yeah, I always questioned that when i seen the commercials.

Good info OP and i'd love to see a "Great Black People in history" thread as well.  Good looks on the book reccommendations D. Nice
Joined Dec 9, 2002
I hate titles like this, along with "black history month" and "black entertainment television". It's hard to blur racial lines when race is pointed out constantly.
Joined May 10, 2013
Nobody is trying to blur racial lines.  We're just pointing out certain people of different demographics.  This is all good information, and I wish I had similar sources for other cultural groups.

I would love to have a chance to sit and read about Hugo Chavez, or Zapata, or Carlos Slim Helu (the richest man in the world, who happens to be Mexican).

There are threads full of scantily clad, over sexed black/white/asian/hispanic women.  A little education might do NT a little good
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