Susan Lee Johnson holds the inaugural Harry Reid Endowed Chair for the History of the Intermountain West at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and is President-Elect of the Western History Association. Johnson is the author of Writing Kit Carson: Fallen Heroes in a Changing West and Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush. A historian of western North America, Johnson studies the history of gender, desire, and embodiment, and of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity. Johnson’s current project explores how the nineteenth-century Santa Fe Trail connected two worlds of slavery—Black chattel slavery in Missouri and points east and Indigenous captivity and coerced labor in New Mexico and the borderlands.
This lecture examines the fall from grace of western "heroes" like Kit Carson. Focusing on the 1970s, it chronicles efforts initiated by Latinx and Indigenous activists in Colorado and New Mexico to dethrone Carson. It also explores the pushback of Carson enthusiasts--both women and men, both professional and non-professional historians. It analyzes the transformative impact of progressive social movements on the study of western history.