Bass Reeves, the guy some people called the real Django Unchained and others said that inspired the Lone Ranger, is finally going to have his story told. Twice. And he’s about to make both Django and the Lone Rangers look like rank amateurs.
Reeves is one of those bigger than life stories that continues to percolate beneath the surface of the African experience. He escaped from his master during the civil war and then went west, straight into Indian territory, where he became a crack shot.
- He learned to speak several tribal languages and gained an intimate knowledge of the territory.
- He became an Deputy U.S. Marshall at a time when wearing a badge was not too different from pinning a target to your chest (especially as a Black man)
- He used marksmanship, disguise and a Native American guide to bring 3000 outlaws to justice. 2,986 came in alive.
- He served (and survived) as a Deputy US Marshall for 32 years, and although the brim of his hat, one button, and his horse’s bridle were destroyed by gunfire. If that isn’t close enough for you, his belt was shot in two.
- Although Cowboy movies tend to depict their heroes with a gun on each hip, one tends to be kind of worthless. Try shooting with your non-dominate hand and you’ll see why. Reeves was ambidextrous, and just as deadly with his left hand as his right. He was so effective with a rifle that he was banned from participating in local turkey shoots.
Was he the real Django Unchained? Seeing as how the two existed in entirely different time periods and had almost nothing in common, probably not. Did he inspire the Lone Ranger? It’s possible – it is said that Reeves left silver coins as his calling card, which perhaps inspired the Ranger’s silver bullets.
Doesn’t matter. If you’re one of those people who can only look up to a person once they have appeared on a screen, you have your new hero. He will soon be profiled on Legends and Lies, a Fox News series produced by Bill ORielly.
More importantly, Morgan Freeman, is producing an HBO mini-series about him. Written by John Sayles (Lone Star), and based on Art T. Burton’s biography Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life And Legend Of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves, the series is a labor of love for Freeman that is more than 20 years in the making.
It will be a dream come true for Freeman, who calls himself a Western fanatic, but has thirsted for more Black characters since his childhood.
He said this of Bass Reeves project. “This is a black man in America’s legendary Western history who has been totally overlooked. Any chance I get to revisit historical moments of our country is important to me.”
The Bass Reeves miniseries joins another high-profile project in the works about our heroes at HBO. They are also doing a movie about Harriet Tubman, which will star Viola Davis.