Blackdom, New Mexico: The Significance of the Afro-Frontier (1900-1930)

Timothy E. Nelson

Blackdom, New Mexico

The Significance of the Afro-Frontier, 1900–1930

Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest

by Timothy E. Nelson

Foreword by Herbert G. Ruffin II, Syracuse University

Published by: Texas Tech University Press

Blackdom, New Mexico, was a township that lasted about thirty years. In this book, Timothy E. Nelson situates the township’s story where it belongs: along the continuum of settlement in Mexico’s Northern Frontier. Dr. Nelson illuminates the set of conscious efforts that helped Black pioneers develop Blackdom Township into a frontier boomtown.

“Blackdom” started as an inherited idea of a nineteenth-century Afrotopia. The idea of creating a Blackdom was refined within Black institutions as part of the perpetual movement of Black Colonization. In 1903, thirteen Black men, encouraged by the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, formed the Blackdom Townsite Company and set out to make Blackdom a real place in New Mexico, where they were outside the reach of Jim Crow laws.

Many believed that Blackdom was simply abandoned. However, new evidence shows that the scheme to build generational wealth continued to exist throughout the twentieth century in other forms. During Blackdom’s boomtimes, in December 1919, Blackdom Oil Company shifted town business from a regenerative agricultural community to a more extractive model. Nelson has uncovered new primary source materials that suggest for Blackdom a newly discovered third decade. This story has never been fully told or contextualized until now.

Reoriented to Mexico’s “northern frontier,” one observes Black ministers, Black military personnel, and Black freemasons who colonized as part of the transmogrification of Indigenous spaces into the American West. Nelson’s concept of the Afro-Frontier evokes a “Turnerian West,” but it is also fruitfully understood as a Weberian “Borderland.” Its history highlights a brief period and space that nurtured Black cowboy culture. While Blackdom’s civic presence was not lengthy, its significance—and that of the Afro-Frontier—is an important window in the history of Afrotopias, Black Consciousness, and the notion of an American West.

Timothy E. Nelson was born in South Central Los Angeles, raised in Compton, California, during the early 1990s, and went to Santa Monica Community College in the wake of race- and class-based conflict with the Los Angeles Police Department. Providing the most in-depth research on Blackdom to date, he reframes the history, focusing on the economic and social ambitions of Afro-Frontierists (Black pioneers). Through various art forms—academic books, trade books, screenplays, painting, photography, and videography—Dr. Nelson is digitally applying his theory of colonization within the digital frontier. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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