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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Old West: One in Four Cowboys were African Americans

“Goodbye Ol’ Paint”, the classic Cowboy song, as composed 
and performed by an African American Cowboy, along on a 
cattle drive because he was “a good cowhand and a great singer.” 
The social and interpersonal aspect of life on a cow drive were 
often more important than how well you handled 
a horse or your skills with the cows or a gun.
One in four cowboys on cow drives were African Americans. 

Source top photo: Black cowboy and horse [between 1890 and 1920?] 
Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library. [Call Number: X-21563].
Source bottom Bunch of genuine old time cowboys and bronco busters at Denver, Colorado. Solomon D. Butcher. 1905. 
Nebraska State Historical Society. [Digital ID: nbhips 12615]

First Posted 11-5-10


coastielema said...

Does that mean 3 out of 4 were something else?

Linda B said...

This is a fun fact!!! I always thought of cow boys as non blacks!

Anonymous said...


COM 101

Anonymous said...

I never knew african american cowboys existed back in the day. You learn something new everyday.

Chris Jackson

Anthony Reed said...

I guess A job is better than no job at all. Especially one where you can have steaks roasted with fire everyday.

Anonymous said...

I never know that one one in four cow boys were black. That is very interesting because of all the racial segregation back then but i think its awesome. Good for them.

Jade Morton

Anonymous said...

WOW. that really took me by surprise. 1 in 4 cowboys are black? I think people are so suprised because movies and tv shows dont have any black cowboys on them. I think that should be cleared up in cowboy movies/ shows in the future.

Anonymous said...

i did not know that African-Americans were also cowboys. It’s great to know that not everything was segregated.
-Janneth Leon
com 101

Anonymous said...

i would like to see more african american cowboys and western singer....just sayin...barbara hum/114-12/2011

shung lee said...

wow...had no idea that 1 in 4 cowboys were african american. Fun fact!

Anonymous said...

Since the stereotype is a white cowboy, I always imagined the majority of cowboys to be white. It's crazy to see how that wasn't necessarily the case.

Taylor Bishop
com 101

Cameron Rand cpm101 4044 said...

I would never think in that era there was any black cowboys. It is a cool fact, that we don't get taught in history.

Anonymous said...

The statistic doesn't seem out of the ordinary. Riding horses and shooting guns were the norm. In the late 1800's the Buffalo Soldiers were african-american soldiers in the US Cavalry. They fought along side the "white" troops in the Indian Wars. With that thought in mind to those who didn't know 25% of cowboys were african-american, it brings new mental images to the term "cowboys and indians".

Martina - Phoenix HUM/114

Jasmine (uop)Hum 114 said...

This is an interesting fact. I always thought of cowboys as being "white". And although i am familiar with the buffalo soldiers, and being African American myself, society never depicts us as having any part in helping create/develop major events in history. But knowing this fact, and how far blacks have come today, makes me even more proud of my people.

Anonymous said...

It seems that to most all who commented to this blog, the 1 out of four ratio and the fact that there even was a black cowboy took them by surprise. Now ask yourself what is television teaching you? Hmmm...

Tayari Freeman@UOP


A Carlos Com 101-4049 said...

What great pictures, and while I was not aware that the number was so high (1/4), I can't say that I am surprised. Hollywood has long portrayed them as white, even going so far as hiring white actors to play their Indian couterparts in movies as well. What I'm wondering is why the Marlbaro man hasn't caught on.....maybe they would have hooked more minorities had a more colorful variety of Cowboys gracing their ads.

Anonymous said...

I knew this way back in elementary school, there were also asian and mexican cowboys.

Chris Wynn 4044

Anonymous said...

That is interesting that Americans were so racist as to exclude them from history for this long. It makes you wonder what else people are hiding because of race or any other reason. You can almost say that the world would be better without secrets, but would it really be any better?
-Tatiana Bartosic

Anonymous said...

I never new that but then how often is it portrayed like that in movies.
Devin Murtaugh

Anonymous said...

I would of guessed your work performance would be more important than your social skills, but I guess things were different back then.

JoeRandazzo, RT

N186P said...

For some reason when ever i think of old time cowboys, i only think of white guys and spanish guys. Never really thought about black people being cowyboys. Mainly because in all western things, black people are never portrayed as cowboys.


Anonymous said...

Great West Emporium:

This might be of interest:

I think the most impressive thing about the guy holding his horse isn't because of his skin colour but the amount of pride he has in his equipment. The old buckskin looks pretty much like all ranch horses of the day but he even has slobber bars on his reins. Pretty high end and a lot of attention there for sure!