Part 10: A Word About The Black Cowboys

Part Ten: A Word About The Black Cowboys

There were a few discernable trends or social phenomena to evolve around Black cowboys. One phenomenon that occurred was when the history, legends, folk tales, and fiction about the West were written, the Black cowboys were virtually deleted. But the WERE there! For "they rode all the trails, driving millions of cattle before them. Some died in stampedes, some froze to death, some drowned. Some were too slow with guns, some too fast. But most of them lived through the long drives to Abilene, to Dodge City, to Ogalala. And many of them drove on the farthest reaches of the northern range, to the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana."

As mentioned earlier, many Blacks lived among the Indians. (There are reports of Black chiefs leading battles.) Then too, there were the famed Buffalo Soldiers (so called because their wooly hair reminded the Indians of the buffalo; and by other accounts, because of the buffalo's spirit, especially when provoked). Here seems to be another phenomenon. The Black soldier's Civil War record proved their effectiveness. Because of their exemplary performances, "the Federal government prepared to use them." So "the Congressional Act of July, 1866, … ,established two Negro infantry regiments and two Negro cavalry regiments. All four saw continuous service in the West during the three decades following the Civil War. … Negro cavalry fought in almost every part of the West from Mexico to Montana." They drew praise from their commanding officers attesting to their "courage and skill" during the Indian campaigns.

The Black cowboys numbered in the thousands, among them many of the best riders, ropers, and wranglers. They haunted wild horses and wolves, and a few of them hunted men. Some were villains, some were heroes. Some were called offensive names, and others were given almost equally offensive compliments.

The history of this period, in order to portray truth as well as reality, should be inclusive of the Black folk who experienced the torture of the times and who in their own individual manner helped romanticize the folklore of the West.


No attempt will be made to profile any individuals, though there existed some very note-worth ones. For any who are interested, we refer you to the sole reference for this section, from which all quotes were taken.

Reference: The Negro Cowboys (now entitled The Black Cowboys) by Phillip Durham and Everett L. Jones.