The Lone Ranger Was Real, And He Was African-American
March 27, 2015
By Wendy Gittleson
The story of the Lone Ranger is far more legend than reality. Most people know that. Most people also know that the portrayal of Tonto as the Lone Rangerís sidekick is often stereotypical and racist.
Tontoís fictionalized story was far from the only racist part of the adaptation of the Lone Rangerís life. The Lone Ranger was very real, but he was not the white man seen on movies and TV. The Lone Ranger was an escaped slave named Bass Reeves.
Reeves was born into captivity in 1838. He was given the name of his owner, William Reeves. Bass Reeves served as a valet for his masterís son during the Civil War.
During a game of cards with his owner, Reeves won, which caused his owner to beat him. Reeves didnít just take it, though. He beat the man back and depending on what you read, either killed him or almost killed him.
He knew that he would have to escape, so he went to what is Oklahoma today and found a home with the Seminole and Creek American Indians.
Eventually, he moved to Arkansas where he settled down, got married, had 10 children and his knowledge of the Indian territories and the fact that he spoke several native languages landed him a job as the first African-American U.S. Marshal.
Reeves never learned to read, so he memorized his arrest warrants. He was never known to make a mistake.
Unlike most of his African-American brothers, Reeves was treated with respect and his legend, even as just a U.S. Marshal, lives on. There is a monument dedicated to him. There was a movie made in his honor.
Until recently, though, few have put two and two together that Reeves was the Lone Ranger.
The fact that he was a Marshal was far from the only similarity with the legend of the Lone Ranger. Reeves was a crack shot. He rode with a Native American friend and tracker. He rode a white horse and while he didnít give silver bullets away, he did give away silver coins.
The story originated from Detroit, the very city where many of Reevesí fugitives served their time.
Unfortunately, it was only the early 20th Century when Reevesí story was made public, and no one had the courage to portray Reeves as he actually was.