Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary

Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary

by Joe Jackson

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Winner of the Society of American Historians' Francis Parkman Prize
Winner of the PEN / Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography
Best Biography of 2016, True West magazine
Winner of the Western Writers of America 2017 Spur Award, Best Western Biography
Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
Long-listed for the Cundill History Prize
One of the Best Books of 2016, The Boston Globe

The epic life story of the Native American holy man who has inspired millions around the world

Black Elk, the Native American holy man, is known to millions of readers around the world from his 1932 testimonial Black Elk Speaks. Adapted by the poet John G. Neihardt from a series of interviews with Black Elk and other elders at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Black Elk Speaks is one of the most widely read and admired works of American Indian literature. Cryptic and deeply personal, it has been read as a spiritual guide, a philosophical manifesto, and a text to be deconstructed—while the historical Black Elk has faded from view.

In this sweeping book, Joe Jackson provides the definitive biographical account of a figure whose dramatic life converged with some of the most momentous events in the history of the American West. Born in an era of rising violence between the Sioux, white settlers, and U.S. government troops, Black Elk killed his first man at the Little Bighorn, witnessed the death of his second cousin Crazy Horse, and traveled to Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Upon his return, he was swept up in the traditionalist Ghost Dance movement and shaken by the Massacre at Wounded Knee. But Black Elk was not a warrior, instead accepting the path of a healer and holy man, motivated by a powerful prophetic vision that he struggled to understand. Although Black Elk embraced Catholicism in his later years, he continued to practice the old ways clandestinely and never refrained from seeking meaning in the visions that both haunted and inspired him.

In Black Elk, Jackson has crafted a true American epic, restoring to its subject the richness of his times and gorgeously portraying a life of heroism and tragedy, adaptation and endurance, in an era of permanent crisis on the Great Plains.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374709617
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 10/25/2016
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 1,012,697
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Joe Jackson is the author of one novel and six works of nonfiction, including, most recently, Atlantic Fever: Lindbergh, His Competitors, and the Race to Cross the Atlantic (FSG, 2012). His book The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire was one of Time’s Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2008. He is the Mina Hohenberg Darden Endowed Professor of Creative Writing in the M.F.A. creative writing program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
Joe Jackson is the author of several books. The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire, was named one of Time magazine’s Top Ten Nonfiction Books of 2008.

Table of Contents


Dramatis Personae
Prologue: “A Sort of a Preacher”

Part I: If You’re Not Good, the Wasichus Will Get You
1. Chosen
2. A Casualty of the Hundred Slain
3. The Great Vision
4. Resurrection
5. The Black Hills
6. “It Is War”
7. When the Wasichus Come

Part II: Childhood’s End
8. The Burning Road
9. Killing Crazy Horse
10. Grandmother’s Land
11. The Fear
12. Dances with Thunder

Part III: The Messiah Will Come Again
13. The Land of Darkness
14. The Making of a Medicine Man
15. The “Show Man”
16. The Entrance to Hell
17. La Belle Époque
18. The Messiah Will Come Again
19. Dances with Ghosts
20. Wounded Knee
21. “ There Will Be a Better Day to Die”

Part IV: “What Is an Indian?”
22. The Underground 347
23. Black Robe Days 361
24. Vanishing Americans
25. Black Elk Speaks
26. Defenders of the Faith
27. Disciples

Epilogue: Besieged
Time Line

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