“Jim Beckwourth was an African American who played a major role in the early exploration and settlement of the American West. Although there were people of many races and nationalities on the frontier, Beckwourth was the only African American who recorded his life story, and his adventures took him from the everglades of Florida to the Pacific Ocean and from southern Canada to northern Mexico.”
~ The Beckwourth Website
James Pierson Beckwourth was born into slavery in Fredericksburg County, Virginia. His birthdate is not certain for two reasons. Because of his social status of being considered “property”, proper recordkeeping was often not kept. Additionally, Beckwourth would later become known for his folklore, which often included obscured and exaggerated details. However, most contemporary historians agree that his birthdate was April 26, 1798.
James’ mother was a woman of mixed-race heritage. Although she was considered a mulatto, she was enslaved by the Beckwourth family. James’ father was Sir Jennings Beckwourth, a White male, who claimed and reared James. In 1810, he took his son to the Louisiana Territory and afterward to St. Louis, Missouri. There, James lived as a “free” citizen, where he matriculated school and apprenticed for a blacksmith.