James Pierson Beckwourth, born to a Black mother and White father, was a mountain man, fur trader, and American Western Frontier explorer. Born on April 26, 1798 or 1800 into slavery in Virginia, he was granted his freedom by his White father and master around 1823. He then went to the American West, where he played a significant role in the early exploration and settlement.
Beckwourth is credited with the discovery of the Backcourt Pass through the Sierra Nevada (U.S.) and improving the Beckwourth Trail, which thousands of settlers followed to central California. In 1854-55, James Pierson Beckwourth, also known as Jim Beckwourth, dictated his life story to Thomas D. Bonner, an itinerant Justice of the Peace in California’s goldfields. Titled “The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians,” his autobiography was published in New York by Harper and Brothers in 1856. Achieving moderate success, his autobiography went on to be published in the United Kingdom and France in 1860.
- Wilson, E. Beckwourth, J. 1972. Black Mountain Man, War Chief of the Crows, Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972, ISBN 0-8061-1555-6, p. 30
- Bonner, Thomas D. 1856. “The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians.” With Illustrations. Written from His Own Dictation. New York: Harper & Brothers.
- Portrait of James Pierson Beckwourth via The Life And Adventures Of James P. Beckwourth: Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians by T. D. Bonner – NEW YORK: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, Franklin Square. 1856. Photo in Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.