BLACK COWBOYS of RODEO
UNSUNG HEROES from HARLEM to HOLLYWOOD and the AMERICAN WEST
They ride horses, rope calves, buck broncs, ride and fight bulls and they even wrestle steers. They are black cowboys, and the spirit of their pursuits intersected with America’s struggle for racial equality, human rights and social justice.
“I think your notion of the skills it takes, the horsemanship … you’re countering the notion that enslaved people had no skills,” said Lonnie Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute and Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “and, see, that’s an important part of the story.”
Beginning at the turn of the 20th century, Black Cowboys of Rodeo is a collection of 100 years-worth of cowboy stories set against the backdrop of segregation, the Civil Rights Movement and eventually the integration of a racially divided country; and told by the unsung heroes whose accomplishments and rightful place in history have been disregarded and all but forgotten.
This collection is not a final document. Or a definitive story.
It is a work in progress.
For many readers, Black Cowboys of Rodeo, which at its core are traditional cowboy stories, is an introduction to a whole new universe of possibilities and an unvarnished, firsthand look at a seldom documented segment of the African American experience.
“In the ‘50s and ‘60s, there was a drive among black folks … to excel and overcome all sorts of barriers in order to achieve what they wanted to achieve,” said Rev. James Lawson, leading nonviolence advocate during the Civil Rights Movement. “I’m not surprised at all that a sizable number of black cowboys, who’ve been misrepresented and not represented in our history books and films, were among those who did that.”