SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- To date, black history month has largely focused on feel-good stories of triumph and togetherness. From these stories, contends writer Leonce Gaiter, one would rarely guess that African-Americans had endured the most brutal slavery and subjugation throughout most of American history -- subjugation against which blacks relentlessly fought.
"If it were any other people," Gaiter says, whose nonfiction has appeared widely and whose acclaimed noir thriller "Bourbon Street" was published by Carroll & Graf, "the emphasis would be on our battles for justice, and not on making the majority feel good about granting us equal rights -- as if those rights were theirs to withhold."
To help remedy what he sees as a neutering of black history, Gaiter's most recent novel entitled "I Dreamt I Was in Heaven -- The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang" focuses on a notorious interracial gang of teenaged black and Indian outlaws who rampaged through Indian territories in the summer of 1895 with the outrageous aim of reclaiming Indian lands from encroaching whites.
"I wanted to get beyond the 'first black this,' and 'first black that' stories. I wanted to get beyond the mainstream media's obsession with reducing us to saints and/or victims. I wanted to reclaim our full historical humanity, which includes rage, fervor, desperation, vengefulness -- the full range of human emotions too often denied us because such portrayals discomfit the majority."
Gaiter focused on The Rufus Buck Gang because of their unique place in American history. "In a way, they heralded the end of the old West. It was the end of Indian Territory, the end of 'Hanging Judge' Isaac Parker's reign as judge, mind of the jury and executioner over 74,000 square miles of territory, and it was the dawn of modern America. The Gang in their way represented or reacted to all of this. They're a great prism through which to see so much of American selves, black, white and brown. It's shocking they've been ignored for so long."
In resurrecting their story in his critically acclaimed novel, Gaiter hopes to expand the range of historical roles blacks claim. "We are so much more than just a few civil rights marchers and lucky entertainers," Gaiter says. "We are outlaws, we are villains, we are naive seekers, we are foolish dreamers, we are wrathful redeemers. In short, we're fully human. The Rufus Buck Gang is part of our history, and our humanity."
SOURCE Leonce Gaiter