Was America's first African American cowboy bounty hunter who lived in the 1800's the muse for Quentin Tarantino's movie Django Unchained?
The new Quentin Tarantino movie "Django Unchained" is based on an African American man during early western history by the name Django who gets released from a chain gang by a Caucasian man through force who has intentions of using, Django to help in a series of bounty hunting expeditions. Django rides around town dressed as a cowboy and twists that only Tarantino inserts into a script are sure to make for a lively and interesting story premise as the film unfolds. But is Django based on a real person or is the Django character in Django Unchained totally a fictional character.
Maybe or maybe not, but this article is to help shed light on the Bass Reeves, the first real African American Cowboy Bounty Hunter in world history, who was enslaved by a prominent politician and farmer by the name of George Reeves before he escaped. It is controversial however whether Bass Reeves may have either ran away to save his life after a major conflict between he and George over a game they were playing together that lead to a fight between the two or if overhearing various talks about those enslaved being freed that he just ran away for the sake of having his freedom. As history tells his story either way, bottom line is that Bass Reeves escaped the rule of George and went North to Paris, Texas where he lived with the Seminole and Creek Indians.
Bass Reeves, who died January 12, 1910 at the age of 72 was born in Arkansas in 1838 and given the last name Reeves by George Reeves who he later escaped from. He became a sharp shooter there before moving back to Arkansas with a wife, 5 sons and 5 daughters. While Bass Reeves was in the Indian Territory, he learned many of the Indian dialects. This would prove helpful to change his career of being a farmer to deputy US Marshall under James F. Fagan who was instructed by his appointee, Federal Judge Parker to higher 200 deputies. Fagan having heard Reeves reputation and knowledge of Indian land, hired him as his assistant.
He worked for 32 years as a deputy and had never once been injured. Rumor is that he even had to arrest his son for murder. Reeves was responsible for tracking and arresting some of the most dangerous criminals during his life and became the Federal governments most valuable bounty hunter. It has been documented that Reeves during his appointment had both his hat and belt shot from his person by outlaws who he still managed to capture.
By the time Bass Reeve retired, he was cited with having arrested over 3,000 felons, but only having to kill 14 due to his heightened detective work and skill and expert marksmanship. Ironically, Bass Reeves was the uncle of the first African American appointed Federal Administrative Law Judge, Paul L. Brady. Brady's appointment occurred in 1972. Perhaps the story of Bass Reeves helped prompt the ideas of two movie scripts written about an African American Bounty Hunter who was a cowboy. Both Fred Williamson and Quentin Tarantino have now written and directed movies that hold African American cowboy bounty hunters equipped with excellent detective and shooting skills.
© 2012 Sharon L. West