[ Allan ]
The seldom told story of the slaves who found their freedom west of the Mississippi River.
“Cross that River”
Cross That River
((( Black History )))
Cross That River is the story of Blue, a cotton-picking slave on plantation in the northeast corner of Louisiana. First, Alan Harris wrote the story as a novella, from which he composed the music and lyrics making up the album, and then produced as a stage play.
“Blue Was Angry”
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Angry at being born a cotton-picking slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation.
Angry at being bought, sold, and treated as “property,” rather than cared for as a human being.
Angry at being driven, nearly to death, and so often whipped (“disciplined”) with the frayed end of a tightly braided, sun-baked, leather whip.
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1855 — Allan Harris’ Cross That River follows the life of a young, rebellious slave on a Louisiana Cotton Plantation. Blue had been enslaved since birth, and after twenty years being owned by a sadistic farm owner who treated him as expendable property rather than a human being, Blue had decided to make a death-defying attempt to escape across the Red River, and Live a Free Life, West of the Mississippi.
On a blustery summer night, the full moon moved in and out of the clouds that were racing across the stormy sky. As the weather worsened, a young slave named “Blue” hid in the tall reeds on the bank of the Red River. The river that ran near the Louisiana cotton plantation where he had been enslaved since birth, and the only thing standing between him and Freedom In Texas.
For the first time in his young life, Blue Was Free.
Blue became part of the most often overlooked African American community — A significant number of runaway slaves, rather than taking the Underground Railroad up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Kansas City, and Chicago, or east to New York City, chose to GO WEST, to the midwestern plains, where they were “free” to join any of the many cattle drives, earning equal pay, and a better life, regardless of the color of their skin. That is, as long as it wasn’t “native” red.
Many of the “Black” Cowboys earned fortune and fame, both as Banking and Business Tycoons, and heroic, Indian-killing Buffalo Soldiers — the United States Calvary, riding with General George Custer and all the other historic figures mentioned in America’s public schools.
Collectively, these pioneering African-Americans, made up a community that became known as The “Black” West.
In the decades to follow, Blue made himself a home, bought himself a wife, and killed more than his share of Indians as a Buffalo Soldier.
Cross That River
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Riding Free on The Chisholm Trail
1880s — Nearly half the working cowboys in Oklahoma and Texas were free black men, many who had joined the U.S. Army’s Buffalo Soldiers (Negro Cavalry), and fought alongside the (White-Anglo) Army in its war against the “Indians” (Native Americans)from the upper plains to the southwestern desert United States of America.
After surviving a 19th Century filled with pain and suffering, Blue quietly retired, as so many do today, to Florida.
Take Me (Back) To The River
Cattle Rustling, vigilantism, and violence were also problems, and by 1859, driving cattle was outlawed in much of Missouri.
1860 — The (Wild) American West of 1860 provided a new beginning for Blue, and the other escaped slaves who chose to continue west after crossing the Mississippi, instead of north to New York and Chicago.
“Cross That River” is Allan Harris and Love Productions Theatrical presentation of Blue’s adventurous (African American) story.
Through voice and song, Allan integrates historical fact and colorful lore to tell an often overlooked story, an important chapter in the fight for Civil Rights and Equal Justice in The United States Of America.
The Wild Wild (Black) West
After his successful escape, and crossing of the Red River, Blue quickly found work (as a cowboy) on a cattle drive between San Antonio and Abilene, Texas … and later, Blue planted the roots of his new life in Kansas City, Kansas, where a community of Black Cowboys thrived.
Texas ranchers driving their cattle on The Chisholm Trail started from either the Rio Grande or San Antonio, and joined the Chisholm Trail at the border between Texas and Oklahoma, the Red River of the South.
From there, they continued to the railhead of the Kansas Pacific Railway in Abilene, Kansas, where the cattle were sold and shipped eastward.
The Trail is named for Jesse Chisholm, a half-Cherokee trader from Tennessee, who originally created the trail to transport his goods from one trading post to another.
Buffalo Soldiers — Originally members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, the Buffalo Soldiers formed (September 21, 1866) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the Black Cavalry by Native American tribes who fought in the Indian Wars. The name eventually came to represent all the African American regiments formed in 1866:
1866 — Because The Civil War restricted access to The Trail, their was a tremendous overstock of cattle in Texas, where the cattle were worth $4 per head, compared to more than $40 per head in the hard-to-reach North and East of America.
1867 — Joseph G. McCoy encouraged Texans to drive their cattle to his new stockyards in Abilene, Kansas. They responded, and in that first year, McCoy shipped 35,000 head, and became the largest stockyards west of Kansas City, Kansas.
O. W. Wheeler was one of those Texas ranchers who answered McCoy’s call. He and his partners drove 2,400 steers on The Chisholm Trail, from Texas to Abilene.
Wheeler’s herd was the first of an estimated 5,000,000 head of Texas cattle to reach Kansas over The Chisholm Trail.
The construction of the Union Pacific Railway through Nebraska eventually offered a cattle drive destination which was an attractive alternative to the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and the Texas Trail emerged as an alternative to the Chisholm Trail. Between 1876 and 1884 some drives went along the Texas Trail instead of the Chisholm Trail.
Cry of the Thunderbird
b/ Allan Harris Cross That River
“Somewhere Down Crazy River”
Robbie Robertson Robbie Robertson
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