There are not too many professions, sports, activities or the likes that exist in the United States today that African-Americans did not contribute to in some shape, form or fashion. The cowboy and cowgirl area is not an exception to that rule, because the existence of Black cowboys in Texas’ history dates back to the early nineteenth century. In this special edition of African-American News & Issues we are saluting our Black cowboys and cowgirls. Therefore, I will be providing a brief background history in reference to Black cowboys and cowgirls in Texas.
There is not a great deal of history out there on the original formation of Black cowboys in the states. Perhaps, because the first Black cowboys were born in slavery and had no rights just as all Blacks during that time. Black cowboys would work as horse-breakers and provided the “behind the scenes” work for Whites. As time progressed out of slavery, they eventually purchased farms and ranches to practice their profession on. The Texas State Historical Association also records other areas that Black cowboys served in including: federal peace officers in Indian Territory, gunfighters, outlaws and some pursued great cattle drives.
According to TSHA being a Black cowboy back in the day was no pretty job. The Association documents that Black cowboys were, “poorly fed, underpaid, overworked, deprived of sleep, prone to boredom and loneliness, choked in the dust, were cold at night, and suffered broken bones in falls and spills from horses spooked by snakes or tripped by prairie dog holes.” Furthermore, TSHA revealed that a cowboy’s work “centered on the fall and spring roundups, when scattered cattle were collected and driven to a place for branding, sorting for market, castrating, and in later years, dipping in vats to prevent tick fever.”
It would be an understatement to convey that African-American cowboys were discriminated against and suffered the grips of hatred and prejudicial elements. Much like today, Blacks had to work twice as hard to receive twice as less. But, to get the respect of others who did not look like them, they had to be the best in every area of cowhand. Although Black cowboys had been around since the early nineteenth century, they were not allowed in the rodeo with other racial groups until around 1940. Previously, Black cowboys had established their own rodeos and associations, due to the exclusion of not being welcomed in the professional setting with others.
The Black cowboy and cowgirl of today, have a greater experience in modern times than our forefathers. Due to the struggle of our ancestors, Black cowboys and cowgirls of today are able to have an impact on society. There are trail rides, rodeos and all types of events that compliment the Black cowboy and cowgirl of today. I am aware of several Black cowboy and cowgirl associations that provide a significant amount of support to the youth of our community and onward.
Oftentimes, I write about members from our community going off to be mis-educated and forgetting who they are and where they come from. To that regard, I believe that it is important that we go back to the days when we taught our children how to make a living doing common things. Our children need to be taught trades, regardless of what type of talent or knowledge they already possess. Having experience in farming, agriculture and things of that nature are invaluable assets to our children. The reason why I state that is because these are fields that are not often sought after. Therefore, there will always be money in it, because not a lot of people are on to it. We MUST Understand that there are all types of ways to make a living, legally; but we have to put ourselves and our children in the right atmosphere to gain the resources and skills needed to do so.
Thus, I would like to encourage our readers to use the various functions that we have at our disposal to assist with advancing our future generations. With that being stated, it is vital that we expose our children to various types of activities, such as cowhand. While the role of the cowboy and cowgirl is not entirely defined in this one editorial, there still remain many benefits to individuals who are a part of or affiliated with some of our Black Cowboy and Cowgirl associations. I am aware of several of these associations that contribute annually large dollar amounts of scholarships to children from our communities to attend college. Additionally, they do many other positive things within and for our communities that is not often reported. Also, the sport itself is a great experience for our youth and it can serve as an avenue to detour young idle minds from getting caught up into trouble. So I would hope that more members from our communities will get involved and allow your children to do the same. Because there was definitely a price paid for Black cowboys and cowgirls to be amongst us today.