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Mythic FrontiersRemembering, Forgetting, and Profiting with Cultural Heritage Tourism$
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Daniel R. Maher

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813062532

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813062532.001.0001

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The Frontier Complex in Fort Smith, Arkansas

The Frontier Complex in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Chapter:
(p.25) 2 The Frontier Complex in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Source:
Mythic Frontiers
Author(s):

Daniel R. Maher

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813062532.003.0002

The city of Fort Smith, Arkansas, packages its nineteenth-century history as “Where the New South Meets the Old West” and greets visitors at “Miss Laura’s,” a restored brothel. Largely built around the reputation of the “Hanging Judge” Isaac C. Parker, Fort Smith has also capitalized upon the novel and film versions of True Grit. While Fort Smith has its share of “Confederates in the attic,” this chapter introduces the notion of “frontiers in the attic,” a public space and place where whiteness can be affirmed without the overt racial tones of the Civil War. By “imagineering” otherness, the frontier narrative legitimates manifest destiny and white privilege under the guise of “taking civilization to the Five Civilized Tribes.” Following Marita Sturken’s critique of memory, this chapter begins to unravel the frontier narrative that frames prostitution and capital punishment as “fun” and “entertaining.” Meanwhile, counternarratives—such as Baridi Nkokheli’s performance of nineteenth-century African American deputy Bass Reeves—trouble stereotypical frontier tropes. Nkokheli’s father, a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, was allegedly murdered by white colleagues. The act of performing Reeves resurrects two deceased lawmen and functions to heal injustices instead of silence them.

Keywords:   capital punishment, True Grit, Bass Reeves, Judge Isaac C. Parker, Hanging Judge, Baridi Nkokheli, Confederates, frontiers, other, Marita Sturken

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