african american cowboys
Posted in the Start Forum
#1 May 28, 2009
I read that around a third of cowboys / cattle drivers were black in the old west?
#2 May 28, 2009
The Life and Adventures of Nat Love
May 22, 2009, 7:55 pm
Filed under: cowboys | Tags: cowboys
Mounted on my favorite horse, my … lariat near my hand, and my trusty guns in my belt … I felt I could defy the world.
— Nat Love in The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, 1907
Born on June 14, 1854 as a slave on Robert Love’s plantation in Davidson County Tennessee, Nat (pronounced Nate) Love would grow up to be one of the most famous cowboys in the Old West .
#3 May 28, 2009
The Civil War in Texas had the unexpected effect of creating the African American cowboy. Within sixteen years of annexation to the United States, Texas joined the Confederacy. Successful ranchers formed regiments and went off to war, leaving behind their wives, children, and African American slaves to maintain and preserve the welfare of the ranches. Most of the ‘outdoor’ work became the responsibility of the African Americans. Some African Americans took this opportunity to escape to the western frontier of Texas. Others used the opportunity to acquire the skills of cowhands. But maintaining the cattle herds and claiming ownership of the cattle on the open range was difficult at best, and during the war it was impossible. There were just too few ‘hands’ to do the work. Barbed wire had yet to be invented, so the cattle continued to roam the grasslands and returned to the wild. Fear of the Indians was still a major concern, but giving firearms to African Americans was unthinkable....
Finding their herds decimated, the primary concern of the owners was once again acquiring horses, rounding up the wild cattle, and putting on their marks to build herds.... But with the 1865 emancipation proclamation in Texas, the ranchers lost a primary source of labor....
Free African Americans who had held together the ranches of their owners during the war had learned the skills it took to work with cattle and horses. They could top off a horse, throw a cow, pull calves from mud bogs, and pop those ’horns out of the brush. Their skills were now in demand as ranchers worked to build their herds. The ranchers needed help, lots of it, to reclaim the cattle from the wilds. So these cowboys went to work, and the law required a wage be paid.
#4 May 28, 2009
BLACK COWBOY HONORED: A painting of the famous Black cowboy Bill Pickett was recently presented to the Oklahoma Senate to be displayed along with other historical paintings in the state capitol in Oklahoma City. The painting by Harold (H.T.) Holden titled The 101 Ranch, named after the ranch in Ponca, OK, where Pickett worked much of his life as the star performer and principal attraction of the Wild ...
#5 May 28, 2009
The first image that comes to mind when we hear the word cowboy is usually something out of a western. Whether the word cowboy conjures up visions of the Lone Ranger, Clint Eastwood, or John Wayne, it seldom brings to mind African-Americans. We see cowboys as gunslingers and outlaws, but in reality, cowboys were simply underpaid, hard working men who were skilled at herding cattle and performing other arduous tasks in the great cattle drives which took place from the late 1860s to the mid 1890s.
It is estimated that 1/3 of all cowboys were either of Hispanic or African-American heritage. Following the Civil War, freed slaves left their masters and plantations to make a new life for themselves. Many African Americans moved out to the west in hopes of buying land and settling down, and some even set up all-black communities such as Allensworth, California, Nicodemus, Kansas, and Dearfield Colorado. Many also found work as riders, farm hands, ranch hands, and cooks, and when the time came to round up and move the herds up the cattle trails from southern Texas to shipping points and other important trading centers of the cattle industry.
#6 May 28, 2009
The two best general works on African American cowboys, however, explode the myth that there were no (or almost no) blacks on the western ranches, ranges, and cattle trails. In 1965 two University of California at Los Angeles English professors, Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones, published a book called THE NEGRO COWBOYS. They estimated that there were at least 5,000 black cowhands in the late nineteenth-century American West. Four years later, University of Oregon history professor, Kenneth Wiggins Porter, argued that the number was closer to 8,000 or 9,000 -- about 25 per cent -- of the 35,000 or so cowboys who worked in the frontier cattle industry.
Moreover, Porter argued that the conditions black cowboys experienced on western ranches and cattle drives were -- from economic and social standpoints -- much better than those of blacks in the South.
#7 May 28, 2009
Black Cowboys, legendary African American figures who drove great cattle herds across the early west, have been idealized in motion pictures, television, and books. The cowboy serves as the great American icon representing courage, hardiness, and independence.
Images of black cowboys have been scarce in popular culture giving the false impression that African Americans were not among the men and women who settled the west. In reality, by the time the huge cattle drives of cowboy legend ended, at least 5,000 black men worked as cowboys.
The word cowboy refers to the men who drove herds of cattle from ranchland in Texas over hundreds of miles of rough and dangerous terrain to the stockyards in the north. A typical crew consisted of one trail chief, eight cowboys, a wrangler to take care of the horses, and a cook. One historian estimates that an average crew would have included two or three black cowboys.
Black cowboys are an important part of our past, present, and future. We strive to keep the legend alive and growing.
#8 May 28, 2009
Another early-day black cowboy was Bose Ikard. He was born a slave in Mississippi in 1847 and grew up in Texas. After the Civil War, he worked with Charles Goodnight on several cattle drives on the trail Goodnight and Oliver Loving carved from Texas through New Mexico and Colorado to Wyoming and Montana. He was one of Goodnight's most valuable employees for years, often being entrusted to carry the large sums of money the cattle baron collected at the end of the trail. 2
#9 May 28, 2009
Not all black cowboys, however, were productive citizens; some were on the wrong side of the law. One such outlaw was Isom Dart whose original name was Ned Huddleston. Born a slave in Arkansas in 1849, he went west after the Civil War. In 1875, Dart was one of a coterie of five thieves rustling cattle and horses in southeastern Wyoming. A rancher whose horses had been stolen by the gang gathered some of his cowboys together and pursued the culprits. In the ensuing shootout, only Huddleston survived. He changed his name to "Isom Dart" and relocated to Nevada. In the mid-1880s, however, he was once again rustling in Wyoming. This time he operated out of Brown's Hole (or Brown's Park) in the southwestern part of the territory, near the Colorado and Utah borders. One author has described this rugged region of mountains, canyons, caves, and arroyos as "one vast maze of hideouts made to order for law-breakers." Eventually, Dart bought a ranch and tried to settle into a life of legitimate work. Inevitably, however, his past caught up with him. In 1900 he was shot to death by famed bounty hunter Tom Horn who apparently had a contract to murder Dart issued by ranchers whose livestock had been stolen
#10 May 28, 2009
Not all black cowboys, however, were productive citizens; some were on the wrong side of the law. One such outlaw was Isom Dart whose original name was Ned Huddleston. Born a slave in Arkansas in 1849, he went west after the Civil War. In 1875, Dart was one of a coterie of five thieves rustling cattle and horses in southeastern Wyoming. A rancher whose horses had been stolen by the gang gathered some of his cowboys together and pursued the culprits. In the ensuing shootout, only Huddleston survived. He changed his name to "Isom Dart" and relocated to Nevada. In the mid-1880s, however, he was once again rustling in Wyoming. This time he operated out of Brown's Hole (or Brown's Park) in the southwestern part of the territory, near the Colorado and Utah borders. One author has described this rugged region of mountains, canyons, caves, and arroyos as "one vast maze of hideouts made to order for law-breakers." Eventually, Dart bought a ranch and tried to settle into a life of legitimate work. Inevitably, however, his past caught up with him. In 1900 he was shot to death by famed bounty hunter Tom Horn who apparently had a contract to murder Dart issued by ranchers whose livestock had been stolen.
#11 May 28, 2009
Finally, there is Bill Pickett. He was born too late -- in 1871 -- to ride the cattle trails but he was a ranch hand who made a reputation for himself as a performer in rodeos and Wild West shows in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Pickett's claim to fame is that he invented a new way to wrestle steers that changed the way rodeos were conducted and that people paid to see because of its novelty. While a child in his native Texas, Pickett observed a bulldog subdue a wild steer by grabbing the larger animal's upper lip in a vise-like bite. The pain the steer felt froze it in place waiting for the dog to release its grip. Pickett adapted this process to steer wrestling on nearby ranches and became a local celebrity. While forcing a steer to the ground, Pickett would, like the bulldog, bite the bovine's upper lip and finish his task without using his hands. Eventually, this evolved into the rodeo event of "bulldogging," and Pickett performed the stunt until shortly before his death in 1932. Not surprisingly, he lost several of his teeth practicing his unique method of steer wrestling. Often competing in Arizona, Colorado, and Wyoming as well as other western states, he was a world champion rodeo bulldogger for several years. As a performer in Wild West shows he went to Canada, Mexico, South America, England, and all over the United States. Several years before his death, Pickett's innovation was outlawed in competitive rodeos. Moreover, some people began complaining that biting a steer's lip in an exhibition was inhumane treatment, and Pickett's attempts to teach his craft to others was largely unsuccessful. Thus, his biographer concludes that, by 1916 or so, "the bite-'em bulldog hold that Pickett had invented was fading from the scene under the pressure of the humane society and the fact that most cowboys were repulsed at the thought of taking the snotty upper lip of a steer in their mouths."
#12 May 28, 2009
On July 28, 1866, Congress created six regiments of black soldiers -- the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and four infantry regiments (later combined into two)-- and assigned them white officers. Many of these African-American troopers were sent to the Texas frontier between 1867 and the close of the 19th century, where the Native Americans dubbed them "Buffalo Soldiers" due to their curly hair and brown skin color. The name was intended as one of respect, and the soldiers accepted it on that basis. These black soldiers came from everywhere, and included many Civil War veterans. There were ex-slaves and free men, the educated and the illiterate, skilled artisans and unskilled laborers, farmers and urbanites.
One of the myths regarding black soldiers out west was that they routinely received equipment far inferior to that used by their white counterparts. The truth of the matter is that all soldiers after the Civil War received the same uniforms and equipment. When the war ended, the army had thousands of uniforms in storage, so the bean counters in Washington (pressured by a Congress in favor of reducing military expenditures) opted not to replenish the supply until the existing stock was exhausted.
The typical cavalry soldier on the post-war Texas frontier used Civil War surplus uniforms and equipment. His uniform consisted of a 13-button navy blue shell jacket with yellow piping, or a plain four-button blue sack coat, along with sky blue wool trousers with reinforced seat, and knee-high boots or ankle-height shoes called brogans. His headgear was either a forage cap with a floppy crown and short bill or a campaign hat, essentially a broad-brimmed hat in one of various styles, in black, brown, or gray.
#13 May 28, 2009
Segregation and racism existed on the frontier and the army was not immune to it. Black soldiers experienced both discrimination and praise from their white counterparts, superior officers, and the various civilians they encountered. Many original accounts and official documents detail how black soldiers were mistreated as well as how many were revered and respected. In spite of all challenges, the Buffalo Soldiers performed well on the frontier and left a proud American legacy. Their desertion rates were the lowest and their reenlistment rates were the highest in the army. They were awarded no fewer than 20 Congressional Medals of Honor during the Indian Wars period in the service of their country.
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