Lonely black cowboy

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Cowboys as portrayed in Hollywood were almost always gun-slinging heroes, and they almost always had another thing in common: They were white. Really, the Western frontier in the late s was as diverse as America is today, and maybe even more so. Some people are familiar with vaqueros, or Mexican cowboys. But fewer know that many cowboys were black.

Lonely black cowboy

By the Smithsonian's count, 1 in 4 cowboys was black. The forgotten history of the black cowboy is slowly being revealed through the work of historians, scholars and nonprofits. But some experts say black cowboy history still is not portrayed accurately, and still not being taught enough. Some Westerners, like Edward J. Keeylocko, a black rancher who created a small Western town southwest of Tucson, have been persistent in telling the untold stories of the contributions of black cowboys in the Old West. The Arizona Republic took an expansive look at Keeylocko's life in a profile published this past week.

Here is some of what we know about black cowboys and how they contributed to the creation of the American West. The cowboys who led the first cattle drives of the new frontier were from all different backgrounds. In the colonial old south, black jockeys, trainers, and grooms handled quarter horsesaccording to research by Richard Slatta, a history professor at North Carolina State University. During the Civil War, white Texans who fought in the war entrusted slaves to maintain their land and cattle herdsaccording to the Smithsonian.

This meant that slaves developed the skills that were "invaluable to the Texas cattle industry in the post-war era," according to the Smithsonian. William Katz, a historian and scholar who has written books about black influence in the West, has traced part of black cowboy history to the Spanish colony of Hispaniola in the s. A Spanish colony at the time, many blacks were enslaved there. But many also escaped and were taken in by American Indian tribes.

After the Civil War, these formerly enslaved groups made up among 5, to 8, cowhands who migrated to the Western U. Keeylocko liked to tell visitors to his Arizona ranch the story of how the word cowboy came about.

Black people were the ones doing the work, he said, and black men were the ones they called "boy. Katz' research has found that there was less discrimination in the pioneer areas of the West.

Lonely black cowboy

Discrimination was more common in established towns, compared to the wide open plains, where "everyone was just trying to survive," said Gloria Austin, co-founder of the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

The story of the black cowboy has not been told nearly enough, Austin said, and that goes back to the prejudices and segregation that this country was built upon. When the first Western movies came about, the U. When movies did show blacks, it portrayed them in a stereotypical fashion, Austin said. None of that reconciled with what slavery meant to people.

Lonely black cowboy

One famous black cowboy was Bill Pickett, a Texas-born cowboy credited with inventing the practice of bulldogging, or steer wrestling, Slatta wrote. The rodeo came to Chandler earlier this monthattracting 9, fans. Austin created the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum in Texas as a way to educate future generations about multicultural accomplishments and achievements in western culture. The museum features exhibits on topics such as American Indian history, vaqueros, and Buffalo Soldiers.

Lonely black cowboy

Austin said she is hoping that school curriculum can be changed to include more multicultural Western history. As a black woman who grew up in Texas, she said, it would have been enlightening to know all of the ways that diverse cultures contributed to the country's history. More education, and more support for nonprofits like the museum, will be needed to maintain the history in the future.

It is the American story. Reach the reporter at jen. Follow her on Twitter: JenAFifield. Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral. Facebook Twitter. Black cowboys were common in the Old West. Here's a piece of their forgotten history. Jen Fifield The Republic azcentral.

Lonely black cowboy

Edward J. Keeylocko built a Western town on a dream. With footage from Laurent Allinger. Five things to know about the Buffalo Soldiers. Here are five things to know about them. Share your feedback to help improve our site!

Lonely black cowboy

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Plays Josephine House; The Death of a Black Man; Lonely Cowboy ( Oberon Modern Playwrights )