Territories Reserved for the White Race

Westering Americans believed that overspreading the continent with their yearly multiplying millions was a God-given right, perhaps even pre-ordained. They envisioned a nation of white people extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Renowned newspaperman Horace Greeley, who made famous the exhortation, “Go West, young man!” “hoped the territories [would] be reserved for the benefit of the white race.” Abraham Lincoln and many other influential people also had concerns about black migration and competition with whites for land and jobs. Some of those potentially affected took steps to try and ensure whites-only development. In 1843, emigrants in the first large Oregonbound wagon train established a pattern others would follow. Their charter stated that, “No Black or Mulatto person shall, in any case or any circumstance whatever, be admitted into this Society [wagon train], or be permitted to emigrate with it.”

In spite of such prohibitions, a few thousand free and enslaved African Americans traveled the Oregon- California-Mormon Trail.