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James Pearson Beckwourth, 1798-1866. A scanned image from a book about him published in the 1800s (Wikimedia Commons). Born into slavery in Virginia, Beckworth was an explorer, mountain man, and fur trader. He is one of the people who make the Great Westward Expansion such an interesting period in US history.

The Black Alabaster Box is set in 1856 during the Great Western Migration. Grace Willis, the protagonist doesn’t meet Beckwourth, but she does meet a cast of diverse characters. It is Jim Payne, a freed black and retired Army Scout who teaches her how to be a scout, equipping her with survival skills she will later need.