Essay On Homestead Act

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White homesteaders, ranchers, and others had been in the Manzanola-Rocky Ford area since the 19th century. In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990.

George Swink, a local entrepreneur, had acquired a significant amount of land in the Arkansas River valley, aiming to expand irrigation farming through the construction of a series of canals and dams.

1972; Moos 2005) in an attempt to reject the traditional concept of "frontier." Population movements, such as the "Exodusters," and all-black towns came to national attention, developing into symbols of African American independence and self-governance.

Nicodemus (Kansas) was the first predominantly black town in the West to receive national recognition and came to represent the pinnacle of black political, economic, and social success.

But they had no money to go back and had to stay in Colorado." (Author interview with Alice Mc Donald.) Settlers collectively attempted to build an irrigation system using water from the Apishapa River, but after the system's collapse during the 1923 floods, it was never rebuilt, as homesteaders realized that irrigation farming was an impossible task. As with other rural communities, recollections of the descendants from The Dry seem to indicate a large measure of mutuality among community members and a relaxation of culturally determined barriers, including gender and racial barriers.

In the early 20th century, farm experts (Campbell 1907; Hargreaves 1957) believed that dryland farming, uniquely dependent on natural rainfall and using non-irrigated crops, such as wheat, corn and beans, could be successful and provide profits when practiced on large-scale acreage. It is acknowledged that the homesteading experience enhanced female status and autonomy, with women sharing responsibilities that altered the traditional gender division of labor, and freed them from traditional gender constrictions.

Nevertheless, dryland farming in Southern Colorado proved unsuccessful and homesteaders started taking jobs in nearby towns and in the railroad, while others took to dairy farming, the land reverting to pasture. At The Dry it was not unusual for women to hold land deeds, to be mentioned as pillars of the family, and to have central roles in maintaining local social networks.

The Dust Bowl–devastating dust storms of loose soil occurring in the Great Plains during the 1930s draught, resulting from deep plowing–crushed the last hopes for farmers at The Dry, and few families stayed after this time. Boswell, Noah Smith, Harvey Craig, Rolan Craig, and Diana (one of the Craig's foster children). Unlike urban black communities that were rigidly segregated in enclaves within cities and towns (e.g., Five Points in Denver), the rural population in Manzanola seems to have maintained more relaxed relations with its white and Hispanic neighbors. Alice Mc Donald, who lived at The Dry until the mid-1950s, recalled that the harshness of the land contributed to relationships among homesteaders' neighbors that seemed to dismiss racial differences: "We were all very poor and had to help each other to survive." Inter-racial marriages were not uncommon, but the presence of the KKK in the area was a continuous reminder of Jim Crow racial ideology.

She felt like crying, but it was too late to go back.

My grandfather stopped at the ridge asking directions to some men working there and they told him to turn back.


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