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Flashback: Hi ho, Silver! The real Lone Ranger was black

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bassreevesWho was that masked man? A slave-turned-U.S. Marshal, argues Art Burton, an author who spent years tracking down the inspiration for the Lone Ranger, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Bass Reeves was a legendary lawman on the 19th century frontier. He wore disguises and was able to take down a man “with one shot from his Winchester rifle at a distance of a quarter of a mile,” Burton was told by an eyewitness. During Reeves long career in Oklahoma, he is said to have killed 14 bad guys and nabbed 3,000 – once bringing in 17 wanted men at one time.

What links Reeves to the Lone Ranger?

The fictional character is known for wearing a black mask. “The first images of the Lone Ranger in the 1930s (show) him wearing a black mask covering his whole face,” says Burton, a lecturer at South Suburban College in Illinois. Besides, the author tells CNN,  ”blacks at that time wore an invisible mask in a world that largely ignored them — so in that societal sense, Reeves also wore a mask.”

The Lone Ranger left behind silver bullets, and Reeves may have left silver dollars, Burton says.

Other coincidences include:

The horse: The Lone Ranger had Silver, a white horse. Reeves was famous for his “large grey.”  Silver. Grey. Need I say more?

The name: Reid was the last name given the Lone Ranger.

The proximity: The fictional character was written for WXYZ, a Detroit radio station. Many of the men sent to prison by Reeves ended up behind bars in the Motor City. “Prisoners were singing songs about him,” Burton says. “He was a celebrity. They would have been talking about him in Detroit.”

Originally published Aug. 6, 2013. This week, we’re flashing back to popular posts from last year. 

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