Long gone are the days of wagon trips three towns away just to go to the trading market to buy supplies for the farm. Now the only time calves are wrangled are at local stock and western show throughout the United States. Even in schools, history teachers rarely or never teach African American history, and even less do they educate students on the incredible history of African American cowboys. I constantly inquire as to why must February be the only time of the year devoted to educating the masses on the integrated history of African Americans, but usually limited to the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks or W.E.B. Dubois. As significant and vital in retaining a quality, fact-based piece of history, we as a society need to continually distribute significant parts of history to students throughout the year.
African American cowboys made tremendously positive contributions to American history during the early eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that are still utilized today in farming and cultivating land. Wrangling steers, defeating wild bucking broncos, and being respected by local townspeople were just a small perks of being a cowboy in the West. Some early African American cowboys understood that performing the bare minimum was unacceptable in the eyes of their Caucasian counterparts. The pigmentation of a person’s played a small part in determining whether or not an individual was qualified to be labeled a cowboy.
Some African American cowboys became inventors, officers of the law, and built a magnificent life for themselves and their families. During times of slavery, traveling out west and claiming the cowboy status was one of the main ways for African Americans to escape the bonds of chains or slashes from whips. Despite the grand struggle of it all, African American cowboys were just as much real and vital persons in the early West as Native americans and Caucasian cowboys. Though rarely portrayed in hollywood films, with the recent addition being Djando, it is important that true American history be showcased in its full splendor and purity.
Feature Image Courtesy of Thomas Blackshear.