The Remarkable Journey of Bass Reeves Michael Jordan of
Remarkable Journey of Bass ReevesRemarkable Journey of Bass Reeves

Bass Reeves: The Legendary Lawman

Standing at 6 feet 2 inches, Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves was as imposing as they come. So strong, it was said that if he spat on a stone, it would shatter. In the tradition of the American West, where both lawmen and outlaws are often turned into heroes, there’s a story of a man who was as tough as a wild Bill Hickok with a Colt .45 and as fast as a horse, the Tonto Express.

Art Burton, a historian of African American studies, said, “He was like the Michael Jordan of the frontier. He could beat any two men barehanded.”

Unearthing the Legacy of Bass Reeves

In the field of African American Studies, Burton explained that Bass Reeves loomed large in the hearts of Hindustani and Oklahoma territories – a nightmare for any lawbreaker. He said that while doing research, he always had to shake his head in disbelief that people wouldn’t believe it.

Do you think this Wild West tale will tell itself? But when Burton started researching Bass Reeves for a book, he was hitting dead ends as though he were trying to track down the Bass Reeves family tree. Burton reported, “When I called, a woman answered the phone and claimed she had no knowledge of him.” “I said, ‘Okay, he’s an African American who was a deputy U.S. marshal.’ And she was very gracious; they say, ‘Sir, we didn’t keep track of black folks’ history here.'”

Bass Reeves: From Escape to Legend

Before he became a lawman, Bass Reeves was an escaped slave, fleeing Texas. A former slave who ultimately apprehended white men to create a name for himself. And yet his extraordinary story was largely forgotten, like a ghost town – until Oklahomans say it’s time. One man said, “He’s a legend. I can’t even fathom him being white. With the kind of career he had, and it’s not been made into a major motion picture yet, maybe it’s long overdue.”

Journey From Escape to Legend
Journey From Escape to Legend

For actor David Oyelowo, the Bass Reeves story has elements of a Lone Ranger – only better. He said, “There’s something about a white man with a mask, riding a magnificent horse.” “Doing it on a shoestring is another thing. You’re a black man coming out of slavery, and you’ve been doing it for over 30 years, and nobody’s paying you any attention? It almost feels deliberately ignored.”

Oyelowo spoke with “Sunday Morning” this past spring, when he was acting and executive producing an eight-part series for Paramount called “Lawmen: Bass Reeves,’ ‘ an attempt to correct the historical record.

Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ Production Insights

It’s a large-scale production shot mostly in Texas with experienced actors like Donald Sutherland and Dennis Quaid. Quaid stated, “Working in the Western region is fantastic. It’s like 12 years old again. It really is.”

Quaid was deeply moved by Bass Reeves’ loyalty to the law: “The thing about Bass Reeves is that he was the real deal. He really was.”

Oyelowo says he studied recordings of testimonies from former slaves found in the Library of Congress to make the character’s speech patterns accurate. He also learned to ride and shoot. “I always look for opportunities to challenge myself,” he laughed.

Honoring an Enigmatic Legacy

He had a sense of a man who will remain a mystery, but it’s almost fitting that the legend remains. Burton doesn’t mind. It’s the hat tip Bass Reeves would want to give – and others like him, black Americans – to a legacy that they’ve been instrumental in creating.

Burton mused, “I’ve often pondered, where did we fit into those [old Wild West] stories?” It’s as if God granted my wish by introducing someone to me before I passed away, and they said, ‘We were also a part of that historical landscape.'”

Conclusion

Bass Reeves, a formidable figure in the American West, resurfaces in a story of bravery and resilience. Art Burton’s quest to reveal Reeves’ extraordinary journey from slavery to legendary lawman underscores the importance of preserving overlooked histories. David Oyelowo’s portrayal and the series “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” bring overdue recognition to a remarkable legacy. Reeves’ narrative, resembling a Lone Ranger of exceptional courage, sheds light on the diverse contributions enriching the American West’s history.

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