There Were Black Cowboys? Teaching the American West from a More Diverse Perspective

Nat Love (Black Cowboy) Image from "The Life and Adventures of Nat Love," 1907

Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

Democracy and Multiculturalism Represented in the Social Studies Curriculum
One of the hallmarks of the democratic process is ensuring that every voice is heard and that every person is valued. One of the ongoing struggles in the American democracy is the legacy of racism and how it has impacted the lives of many Americans. Racial prejudice has shaped school curriculum and caused there to be a primary focus on European Americans in history courses.

Exposure to a More Diverse Curriculum
When I was in seventh grade a teacher introduced me to two books that had a major impact on my thinking to this day. One was entitled “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” about the treatment and persecution of Native Americans in the American West and and an informational book about black cowboys from the late nineteenth century. The book about the history of Black Cowboys was life changing and instrumental in my becoming a historian and social studies professor. These books helped expand my notion of what American history is. For after all, Native American history is American, Black history is American history and so on and so forth. Generally, history is presented primarily from a Eurocentric perspective and people of color are presented as an afterthought, if at all. So imagine my surprise and delight as an African American young man who loved history when I found out that African Americans played a key role in shaping the American west. Like most people, up until that point in my life I had never even heard of black cowboys.

The Wild West and Black Cowboys
When studying and learning about the time period in the late nineteenth century known as the Wild West, often the focus is on white American heroes like William H. Bonner (Billy the Kid), Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Calamity Jane. But very little is said about the many African American cowboys that existed during that time. During the 1860’s-1880’s there was an estimated 6,000-8,000 black cowboys. Some historians argue that as many as one and four cowboys were Black. Many were slaves that learned how to manage cattle while their masters fought in the Civil War. Historian William Loren Katz stated that being a cowboy was one of the few jobs African Americans could get right after the Civil War besides serving as elevator operators or delivery boys. But why is this important part of American history often omitted. Often even k-12 teachers have no knowledge of this information. There are many stories about celebrated black cowboys who helped tame the West. Below I mention a few.

Civil War veteran Willie Kennard a 42 year old black man in the 1870’s, answered an ad for a new marshal in the rough gold mining town of Yankee Hill. Despite racial prejudice from the townspeople Kennard earned the respect of the town by systematically apprehending all of of the bad men in town that had been terrorizing folks and wreaking havoc. He largely did this with his sharpshooting skills and quick draw he had developed during his military experience. Kennard single-handedly eventually brought law and order to the formerly lawless town of Yankee Hill. However, his name is largely absent from the history books.
Nat Love, famously known as Deadwood Dick was another well known black cowboy. He was a former slave from Tennessee who left the Love plantation after the Civil War to find work. Love was known for his gift of breaking horses and winning prize money for his outstanding performance at a rodeo where he earned his nickname. He details his exciting and romanticized life as a cowboy in his autobiography entitled The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as ‘Deadwood Dick. Some adventures Love highlighted included his meeting with Billy the Kid, being captured by the Pima Indians and escaping, fighting off cattle rustlers, enduring harsh weather and training as a marksman. Other famous African American cowboys included Jesse Stahl the famed rodeo circuit rider and Bill Pickett the wild west show performer and actor.

What Can Teachers Do?
Teachers can greatly expand upon the typical one dimensional curriculum that focuses on an ahistorical uni-racial version of history by digging more into the lives of ethnically and racially diverse Americans whose lives were different from mainstream America. One great topic to explore are the lives of Black cowboys. Below are a number of resources that align with state and national standards that can help provide great lessons and units on the topic.


Social Studies Standards
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)- Standard 1
Culture: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity.

Ohio Grade Eight Social Studies Standards
Theme: U.S. Studies from 1492 to 1877: Exploration through Reconstruction
Content Statements:
Historical Thinking Skills:
1. Primary and secondary sources are used to examine events from multiple perspectives and to present and defend a position.
11. Westward expansion contributed to economic and industrial development, debates over sectional issues, war with Mexico and the displacement of American Indians.
Civil War and Reconstruction:
12. The Reconstruction period resulted in changes to the U.S. Constitution, an affirmation of federal authority and lingering social and political differences.

Sample Lessons
Black Cowboys Lesson Plan and Activity- Language Arts and Social Studies

Black Cowboys and Wild Horses Lesson Plan – Language Arts and Social Studies

Black Cowboy- Bill Pickett Lesson Plan

Various Lesson Plans- Spanish and Mexican Roots of Cowboy Culture

Unit Plan- Debunking the Myth of the American West

Lesson Plan: The Cowboy Life

Lesson Plan: The Cowboys

Elementary Unit Plan and Resources: The American Cowboy Life

Elementary Lesson Plan- Nat Love Graphic Novel and Lesson


Books and Articles on African American Cowboys and the American West

Black Cowboys of the Old West: True, Sensational, and Little-Known Stories from History

The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as ‘Deadwood Dick,’ by Himself

Black Cowboys of Texas

Black Cowboys in the American West: On the Range, on the Stage, behind the Badge

Bill Pickett: Bulldogger (Biography of a Black Cowboy)

The Black West: A Documentary and Pictoral History of the African American Role in the Westward Expansion of the United States

Black Cowboy, Wild Horses

Black Cowboys in Oregon

The Lesser-Known History of African-American Cowboys

Willie Kennard: Yankee Hill’s Black Marshal

Love on the Range: The Story of a Cowboy

Nat Love, aka: Deadwood Dick – Greatest Black Cowboy in the Old West

Bill Pickett (ca 1870-1932), African American Cowboy

Stahl, Jesse (c. 1879–1935)

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

American Indian culture of the West

Calamity Jane – Rowdy Woman of the West

Video and Audio Resources
The Black Cowboy

Roping as a Way of Life: The Proud History of Texas’ Black Cowboys

Federation of Black Cowboys

Black Cowboys of Texas

The Cowboys of Color Rodeo

African-American Cowboy: The Forgotten Man of the West” Documentary about Black Cowboys

Recordings of Black Cowboy Songs


  1. Trevor McMullen

    1. This article is excellent. I completely agree that the education system needs to stop teaching the typical one dimensional curriculum that focuses on an ahistorical uni-racial version of history. Unfortunately my high school did this and I graduated unaware that black cowboys played such a big role in the developing the West during expansion. Ironically, I just learned this for the first time while student teaching US History. After studying it, I was able to teach the class about exodusters.

    2. This connects to diversity which we have covered in class. It also relates to how history can get distorted depending on who is writing it, which we have had discussions about.

    3. I could use this article in a classroom as a resource when teaching my students about the reconstruction period that followed the Civil War. I can also be sure to teach this subject when covering cowboys and westward expansion.

  2. 1. This article was very interesting and very well written. I thought it was very interesting as you stated in the second paragraph, “For after all, Native American history is American, Black history is American history and so on and so forth.” I think this is something not many people think as a true statement just with the way I observe our society. Unfortunately it’s not always that an “American” will consider any ethic group american, even though they live in America. What’s mind bottling is the thought of this is deep down each “American” is made up of all of these ethnic groups that we push to the side and choose that they are different, when there is a good chance a part of them is in us.

    2. This mainly connected to our talks about prejudice and discrimination. How history is shown/ was shown to me on this topic was not how it was presented here. When you look into how history is taught in many of classes you tend to see mild times of discrimination and how something is told.

    3. I would use this to back up our discussions in class of opinion versus fact. I feel many historians based a lot of their lecture off opinions. Especially one teaching this topic that you may only hear one side of the history. I could also use this article in my other classes, my other leadership class discussed how diversity is important to a group/organization and using certain techniques to improve/recognize a diverse culture.

  3. 1. I never really gave much thought about how history is viewed and written in a manner that banishes entire groups of people that had just as much importance shaping history.

    2. I feel like history is written in a manner that is not intentionally suppose to be told one dimensionally. I feel like history comes off this way since it has been written in this manner for centuries and has become engrained in the way in which history is recorded.

    3. This article is composed of many great resources to teach many great western figures. When thinking of Wild West figures people such as Wild Bill, Custer, Jessie James come to mind. This would be a great way to show kids that each person is involved in the history that is made. This would also help in diverse settings to help connect with kids like the experience you had in 7th grade.

  4. I never actually learned about the black cowboys. My high school did not teach us that, and that is very unfortunate. I am glad there is an article like this one I can read and now know more about the black cowboys. The education system needs to stop teaching the one-dimensional curriculum that focuses on the ahistorical uni-racial version of history. There were 6,000-8,000 black cowboys and I really wish I would have learned more about them in high school. I hope teachers today teach students about the great black cowboys. 

  5. I found it interesting how many schools teach subjects that disregard many groups of people. When these groups do get mentioned, it is also mostly misinterpreted so that white people become the “heroes” of every American history story. I found this article very eye opening to see how many black cowboys there were and how they had such a strong impact on their surroundings. However, not even many teachers know about them. Americans need to be more aware of cultural differences, and by educating people on topics like this, people may become more accepting of other people.

  6. When I saw the title of this article I knew I had to read it because I had never stopped to think that in all the learning and knowledge I have from the Wild West that African Americans are widely absent from the history. Reading this now, I feel almost foolish that I hadn’t thought about African Americans role during this time. I found it very interesting that cowboys were a great option for African Americans after the Civil War. With so little options, it is understandable why so many would go down that path, which makes it even more ridiculous that it is not taught as often as it should be in schools!

  7. Aren’t teachers AMAZING!! Anyway, I have never heard of black cowboys either and I am a sophomore in College. Isn’t that crazy. And the funny thing is, is I have never even thought about African American’s being cowboys, which is embarrassing to say. You’re absolutely right, we are programmed to learn about European history in our history classes now and we don’t dig deeper into what else could have happened.

  8. This article was fascinating to me. For one, the title grabbed my attention almost immediately. The first thought that came to mind was, was there actually African American Cowboys? The stereotypical cowboy is a white man. Of course, after reading, I learned that there is/was black cowboys. During the 1860’s-1880’s there was an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 black cowboys. This number was shocking to me. It is super cool to learn about things like this!

  9. I have never really one to enjoy history classes, but this article was very interesting to me. When I was reading this, I thought to myself how i never really thought about how they would bash other culture groups. This was shocking to me because these groups were just as important in today’s talk of history from many years ago.

  10. I absolutely loved this article as it has brought several new ideas and historical facts to my attention. I do agree that Americans leave out the greatest failures of the American people and how we betrayed and brutally murdered billions of African Americans and Native Americans. I had no idea that there were so many famous African Americans that impacted the wild west and that they helped protect our land from “bad men” and others starting trouble with other citizens as well. Again I just want to say that I agree that we will need to incorporate the idea that America was just not founded by one race but by all races and as you say, their history is our history.

  11. I personally had never learned about black cowboys. I always grew up thinking about the sterotypical idea of the white cowboys you see on TV. I found this article very informative and eye opening. The school system should really implement this into their studies.

  12. Wow, I had no idea these men existed! I love how much research you put into this. It is such a surprise to see what a wealth of information exists on the subject for it to be omitted from the classrooms. Thank you for bringing it back! One of the things I love most about living in the United States is the amount of diversity, both apparent and below the surface. It is called “The Melting Pot” for a reason. I love reading about historical figures. Kennard and Love seem like really interesting individuals. It would be cool to learn about others like them from that setting!

  13. This is an interesting article. I can genuinely say I never thought about a cowboys race before, and always assumed that there were black and hispanic cowboys, but then again, I never have seen them represented in movies or novels. Cowboys are usually represented as white men. It is peculiar to me that there is such a lack of focus on men like William Kennard and Nat Love. I never have heard of either of them, but I plan on exploring them further now. Thank you for exposing this topic to me!

  14. You know, at first I thought it was super crazy that it we never ever hear about black cowboys. Or, atleast I never did. Growing up we always learned about cowboys and they were white. In our textbooks and in movies. Almost always they were white, never black. It is so interesting that there were so many black cowboys “During the 1860’s-1880’s there was an estimated 6,000-8,000 black cowboys.” but all you ever heard about were the whites! It is kind of a cool thing to realize because it makes you realize the racial oppression towards blacks that they weren’t even bothered to be recognized as cowboys.

  15. What a great round-up of resources. I am delighted my piece on Bill Pickett is included but I look forward to checking out some of the other topics you mention!

  16. Growing up I’d always watch old westerns with my Dad and enjoyed learning about this period in history. It is true that most of our history books are lacking representation of other ethnicities. It’s extremely important to diversify the content we are presenting to students and this article provides great ways to do so.

  17. This is awesome! Growing up, my family was centered around working on our farm, going to stockyard and rodeos, and watching westerns on TV. With that being said, not once have I ever thought or heard/learned about black cowboys. History is presented from a Eurocentric perspective, leaving out a rich history of other races. When learning about the Civil War, not once did I think about slave masters fighting and leaving their slaves and cattle behind. I find it very interesting that slaves learned how to manage cattle for their masters who fought in the war. Today, athletes in the PBR are not all European American and are more diverse, which is very cool. I will definitely have to look into Deadwood Dick’s autobiography!

  18. Its great that because of the technology available our society can share what information we have to give credit where credit is due. I think that is a great way to connect with African American students who grew up thinking the Wild West looked more like a John Wayne movie rather that what it actually was.

  19. I find it interesting that all throughout my years of history in K-12 and also my history classes from college, I never knew about black cowboys. I think it is important for people to know the history of African Americans just as it is important to know about Native American history. I think teachers and professors should start teaching students about the black cowboys just as much as any other cowboy. It is interesting how different groups of people don’t get taught about in the same manner because of the color of their skin or their religious beliefs. If the teachers that taught my teachers would have educated them about black cowboys, then I believe that everyone today would have some knowledge about them or that they even existed. 

  20. Prior to reading this I also did not know that there were African American cow boys even though I took an African American history class. I am amazed to hear about people like Nat Love and Willie Kennard because I never though about there being or not being African American cow boys, I just know that it was not taught to me. Through reading these articles I learn more and more that the social studies I was taught in school includes a lot of biases and is also very one sided and as an educator I will make an effort to teach a more divers social studies.

  21. I agree with this article. Most of what I remember being taught K-12, was focused on European Americans. I never realized that until I was older, and I never heard of a american-american cowboy. Which is odd, because, as the article states, they did exist. It is like it was purposely omitted for some reason. I think the article is right, when it says, we as teachers need to start teaching to a more diverse group. To start expanding our teaching. To how this were, and get away from the focus on European Americans.

  22. This article was very interesting! The only thing I can remember learning about African Americans pre-Civil War is that they were slaves. You rarely learn about other roles they played in American society. It’s so important that we move away from teaching only European American history and begin introducing our students to topics such as black cowboys. By expanding our horizons beyond “textbook history” we can help give our students a better understanding of how our country was impacted by various groups of people that are not typically talked about. I look forward to exploring the teaching resources you have provided. I think my students would be very interested to learn about this part of our country’s history.

  23. It’s really interesting to me about how much there is about African American cowboys. They really helped shape the west and I don’t remember learning about it in school until now. Its also crazy how in pictures, movies, and t.v. shows the only show cowboys as white and you never see an African American one.

  24. The title itself caught my attention! I mean, why wouldn’t there be African American cowboys? Definitely not something I have ever heard or been taught about until now. As an educator, I think it is easy to teach about the more obvious African Americans such as LMK jr. who have influence history and we forget about the less significant people who deserve a little attention. Definitely something to think about as a future teacher.

  25. I read the article about black cowboys. It sounds very closed minded but I have never thought about the fact that there were black cowboys. In any movie or show I have seen about cowboys and the wild west it has all white cowboys. The thought of diversity back then was basically unheard of so I have not even gave the thought about black cowboys. Nat Love seems like an amazing character. I would love to see a movie based on Nat Love!

  26. This is a huge thing for racism and does bring a lot of light on people from the past. The fact that there were so many black cowboys and I didn’t know nor learned about in school is crazy! I think this is amazing and starts to make me question where and when racism started? this helps bring more diversity into history and into the teachings for educators.

  27. The article that I choose to read was the Black Cowboys in the West. The knowledge that I gained from this article is that there were approximately 6,000 to 8,000 Black Cowboys. Many Black Cowboys learned how to manage cattle while their masters fought in the Civil War. Being a cowboy was the only job freed people could get after the the Civil War besides working as a elevator operator. Lastly I learned that the reason why we don`t hear that much about black cowboys is because teachers are not educated about the history of black cowboys.   

  28. The article that I choose to read was the Black Cowboys in the West. Prior to reading this article I was aware of black cowboys because of the 1993 movie “Posse.” The knowledge that I gained from this article is that there were approximately 6,000 to 8,000 Black Cowboys. Many Black Cowboys learned how to manage cattle while their masters fought in the Civil War. Being a cowboy was the only job freed people could get after the the Civil War besides working as a elevator operator. Lastly I learned that the reason why we don`t hear that much about black cowboys is because teachers are not educated about the history of black cowboys.   

  29. Reading this article provided me with so much insight on a topic I had never known about. Growing up in a small town in East Texas, my history lessons never had any focus on African Americans as a part of American history–we were even taught that slavery was not the reason for the Civil War. It’s very interesting as I get older to see the way Black history is seemingly wiped away from American history, even though it is such a key factor in learning about the past. To hear that one in four cowboys were black was news to me, as this is not something ever discussed in schools. It makes me question the history that is taught and what other things are dismissed from textbooks, and the racial prejudice that comes along with the Eurocentric history we are taught in school.

  30. The title of this article was exactly what I thought. Unfortunately, there is not enough attention given to people like Nat Love, who deserve more. This is a topic that teachers should do a better job at emphasizing in the classroom.

  31. This article was very interesting to me because I do not remember learning about any African American cowboys when I was in school which is crazy considering there were so many. I think that all teachers should teach their students about this topic and emphasize this part of history because it was an important part of shaping the American west. These lesson plans all seem like a great way to address this topic and break the traditional Eurocentric perspective of teaching history.

  32. This was such an interesting article to read! All throughout growing up, your typical cowboy was a tall, brooding white man with an enormous hat pulled down over one eye as he rode into town on his horse, dust kicking up behind him dramatically. It wasn’t until probably after high school that I read somewhere how a good majority of cowboys were actually African or Native American, which really makes more sense than your Walker Texas Ranger stereotype. Aside from slaves and the Civil Rights Movement, students are rarely taught about influential African-Americans who helped shape our country. With so many resources available that clearly connect to state standards, there’s really no excuse for teachers not teaching about the more colorful side of American history.

  33. When I read the title of this article, I thought, of course there were black cowboys! In fact, it has been apparent to me that black Americans have been a constant contributor to American society whether being oppressed, acknowledged or not. Statements from the perspective of the author like, “Generally, history is presented primarily from a Eurocentric perspective and people of color are presented as an afterthought, if at all” seems to be a sweeping statement. Further, another example, “Racial prejudice has shaped school curriculum and caused there to be a primary focus on European Americans in history courses”. Perhaps there are many segments of the world population that haven’t been focused on as well, like Indigenous peoples or the Haitians that have experienced horrible atrocities. These topics are also glossed over in primary history education.

    This is a great curriculum to expose a more diverse history involving black american cowboys, and as a segue to the countless ways black Americans contributed to making America what it is today. I enjoyed learning about some of the cowboys and what their lives must have been like. I would also be interested in knowing more about black women and how they participated in building communities in the west.

  34. This article about African American Cowboys was fascinating to me. For one, the title grabbed my attention almost immediately. The first thought that came to mind was, was there actually African American Cowboys? The stereotypical cowboy is a white man. Of course, after reading, I learned that there is/was black cowboys. During the 1860’s-1880’s there was an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 black cowboys. This number was shocking to me. It is super cool to learn about things like this!

  35. What an interesting article! As I was scrolling through trying to pick which article I wanted to read this one immediately stood out to me. Black cowboys is something you really never hear of and honestly something I had wondered about throughout my educational career. The stereotypically cowboy is always shown as a white male. I always wondered why is this? Were there really no black cowboys? I completely agree that our schools systems need to offer exposure to a more diverse curriculum. Why do we only talk about black historical people when it comes to slavery or civil rights movements? I like how you stated the importance of every voice being heard and every person being valued. It’s sad how racial prejudice have shaped our curriculum in our education system. We need a change!

  36. As a girl from Eastern Kentucky back in the mountains, I grew up watching many cowboy movies and can admit to never hearing of an African American cowboy. This article blew my mind. It’s amazing to find that we can relate on more levels in history and how the African American culture was a part of all of them. Granted I never really paid attention when watching the shows at who was represented but now that it has been pointed out it is true.

  37. This article was very interesting to read. I feel that this isn’t discussed enough in history. I found it very interesting at the fact that around 6,000-8,000 black cowboys. In old western movies and film, you always seen the stereotypical Caucasian cowboy man riding horses and raising cattle, but there is a big part of history that their forgetting which was that black people were cowboys as well.

  38. There Were Black Cowboys? Teaching the American West from a More Diverse Perspective- I have never really one to enjoy history classes, but this article was very interesting to me. When I was reading this, I thought to myself how i never really thought about how they would bash other culture groups. This was shocking to me because these groups were just as important in today’s talk of history from many years ago.

  39. This article is so interesting and definitely gives a brand new lens to view history through. Not only does this article give fascinating historical facts about Black cowboys, but it also dives into a chilling and very real fact. So much of America’s history has been altered to tell from a very Eurocentric point of view. This article is a very engaging and informative read.

  40. Like many K-12 teachers, I was unaware that there were African American cowboys during the 1860’s through the 1880’s. As a teacher, I think this would be very simple to include in a Civil War lesson, but very impactful for the students. When the students are learning about Civil War heroes and people who made a big impact, teachers can talk about lives of Willie Kennard and Nat Love and the impact they had. The attached lesson plans and resources are a great addition for teachers.

  41. It is sad that this is an overlooked fact. When I think of cowboys I picture retro shows such as Gunsmoke or Bonanza which did not depict African American cowboys (that I know of). I was also surprised at the number of internet resources that speak on Black cowboys. I was surprised that many Black men were only left with the job of a cowboy which is now one of the most fantasized/heroic old roles of our time in movies and for children.

  42. This article was really interesting to me because I had no idea there were black cowboys. When many people think of cowboys and the west they think of white people because thats how its almost always depicted in movies and shows. I also thought it was interesting that they learned these skills when they were slaves because their masters were fighting in the civil war. In the future when I am teaching I will be sure to look more into it and include it as a lesson so more people can learn about it.

  43. I have never heard of Black cowboys. I did not assume there were not any, but my attention definitely was not drawn to the fact that there were any. Learning in schools teaches a skewed form of history from one perspective, usually from the perspective of White people. By excluding the role of people of color in history, you are perpetuating the issue of misrepresentation of people of color and you are erasing history itself! All knowledge learned in schools is socially constructed, so it is not surprising that I never learned about the role of Black people in the American west. This leads me to wonder: how much other knowledge do I hold to be true is actually falsified and skewed?

  44. It’s embarrassing to me that I had no idea there were black cowboys and only thought of white ones. Through media and school, I have only heard of white cowboys, but it is also my fault that I didn’t research deeper as I know a lot of our history education is one sided and leaves out big and important portions of history. Our education system needs to stop teaching a one-dimensional curriculum from a Eurocentric perspective as you are distorting history when teaching in such a fashion. We need to be educating people on the whole story and teach more cultural awareness and hopefully this will teach a greater acceptance.

  45. I want to read this book now. I honestly have never thought about their being black cowboys. I find this kind of sad. All we learn about African Americans in school is about slavery, civil rights movement and a few famous black men such as Karl Marx and King Luther jr. America isn’t made of just European decent. I think it’s important that we start implementing the teaching of racial minorities history in school so we can better understand one another.

  46. Once again Dr. Childs presented a very interesting history lesson; near a dear to my heart; I think I missed my calling. As many people have pointed out, we all were probably exposed to the stereotypical white cowboy that we saw on tv and in the movies like the ones John Wayne and Clint Eastwood often played. To this dad I catch my day watching these old shows. Next time, I’m going to ask him if he’s ever seen an African American cowboy in any of them. I can see that it would be challenging as a teacher to try and ensure that you are providing a well-rounded history lesson; it’s probably “easy” to teach about white cowboys because you would have easy access to all of the material needed to teach on this topic but as Dr. Childs points out, you’d have to do a little more research to gather the information needed to teach on black cowboys. I honestly never thought much about it but I never thought much about a lot of the social justice topics that Dr. Childs presents at NKU!

  47. I absolutely loved reading this article, and I wish it was taught more in schools! Often, when we’re taught American history, we’re taught the version that focuses on white people. If we are taught about African-American people, then we’re usually taught about slavery and suffrage; however, Africans came over to America hundreds of years ago, so there’s obviously more history to African-Americans than we’re taught. There’s not even much of an argument to black cowboys because it’s completely factual, and I hope that more history of African-Americans will be taught to generations to come.

  48. I was surprised to learn of the existence of black cowboys in the first article, I read them backwards, but now am even more surprised that an estimated 1 in 4 cowboys were black. If they were so common, why is there so little representation of them in our history? Especially since it was one of the common jobs a black person could get after the civil rights, that seems like a very simple thing to mention when teaching class. I’m not saying it that teachers intentionally didn’t mention it on purpose, I think it is just not common knowledge, but I am just wonder why and how it go to the point where it is not common knowledge.

  49. The Eurocentric perspective that history tends to hold is very damaging to a students knowledge base.For example, when I think about black american history I think of slavery, and that is it. While I now know that African Americans have played their own, large part in every aspect of american history, that is not how my knowledge was originally laid. Started with young children, teaching from multiple perspective could have a huge impact on how future generations view many political issues.

  50. I 100% agree that the struggle of racism all around the world is still ongoing and impacts everyone’s lives one way or another. Thinking of a Cowboy I immediately think of a white male with a cowboy hat and a horse. I was never taught about black cowboys in school which is sad. As there was approximately 6,000-8,000 black cowboys I strongly feel that if there were so many black cowboys and for example Willie Kennard, who had an impact but yet we only get taught about the white cowboys if they were not black we would hear and see their names in the school textbooks.

  51. I found this article to be very interesting, when I think of cowboys I automatically think of white men with fringe on their chaps, and wide brimmed hats. I had never heard of there being black cowboys but after this I wish that I heard more about this side of history. I agree that schools need to diversify their curriculum and try to get away from only seeing one side of the story. I think that they are leaving out a crucial element of history that can really make a difference in their students lives.

  52. Unfortunately, much of historiography tends to favor the actions and events surrounding white men. This is mostly due to the fact that until recently, much of history was documented by white men and gave a biased perspective over much of history. This effect can be seen in the American cowboy; a mainstay in American history and popular culture. However, there has been a great bias here as well. Many of us tend to think of cowboys as tough, white men such as Clint Eastwood or John Wayne, but many cowboys were actually Hispanic and Black. This notion alone could lead to conversations in the classroom, and these perspectives offer relevance to students from different backgrounds. It isindeed all American history, not white history.

  53. I really like the topic discussed in this post. I initially clicked on it becuase while it makes sense, I never realized that there were African-American cowboys. I think that this knowledge is incredibly important and powerful because so many little kids love cowboys and love learning about them. It is also so powerful to have students be able to see someone who looks like themeselves when they admire them. This is especially true once the students learn just how manny of them there were. By including African-American cowboys alongside the traditional White cowboys so many more children could be interested in them. I would definitely want to incorporate this into my own classroom.

  54. I loved this! Growing up I watched cowboy movies with my grandfather and you always saw the white cowboy outlaw with the Native American either sidekick or “bad guy”. I personally never knew there were African American cowboys and I am really excited to learn more and teach this in my classroom.

  55. Growing up, I have spent many afternoons watching Bonanza, The Rifleman, and Gunsmoke with my grandparents. The Western Phonomena swept Hollywood and created a culture of celebrating Cowboys and Indians as real-life Superheros. Until now, I have never heard of Black Cowboys and am presently surprised about the impact they had on North America during this time. I am saddened that they have remained in the shadows for so long and that this part of history is untold. As a future teacher, I think that it’s important to share with students that history is all around us and to not trust only what is popular.

  56. I only recently heard that black cowboys were a thing and I find it incredibly interesting. Especially to hear that as many as one-fourth of cowboys were black, it’s surprising that something like this isn’t common knowledge. I mean, it’s just so cool? It also makes sense historically, that black men could learn herding in mass numbers because animals still needed to be tended to while white slave owners were away fighting in the Civil War. With how few industries were welcoming of freed black men in the post-war period, the number of black cowboys is probably also due to how many black men couldn’t get other forms of work. I hope that this aspect of history gets researched more, and that Hollywood will give us a historically accurate Western film with a racially diverse cast.

  57. I have never agreed with anything more than “American democracy is the legacy of racism and has impacted the lives of many Americans. Racial prejudice has shaped school curriculum.” I really hope that upcoming teachers can try to stray away from these practices, especially with the social movements that have been present this year. I hope that our next generation has more exposure to diverse cultures and us future teachers expand on the typical one-dimensional curriculum. Personally, I feel like I learned little about history throughout my years of school and my high school years were spent learning the same thing I learned in middle school. There is so much history to explore and so much we can learn from it.

  58. This article is one of my favorites you have written as I have been fascinated with the wild west history for quite a while. As a young kid I can remember black and white westerns being on the television and me riding around on my stick horse acting like I was a true cowboy. As I have become an education major, I find myself thinking of ways I can represent all cultures into my instruction. At the end of this article, there are many great lessons that are provided. One of my favorites was, where the students are asked to do different activities and assignments, but to use the resources provided. Of those resources, there were ones that included facts about black cowboys. I agree, it is time as educators and as a human society in general, that we need to stop the ahistorical uni-racial version of history. All students deserve to see their culture and race represented in our history. I look forward to applying these methods into my future instruction.

  59. This was such a wonderful and fascinating article to read. Like many others stated I had no idea that Black cowboys existed in history. Thinking about this mindset now I feel ashamed that I automatically assumed this was a white mans area. I find it seriously disturbing that this topic is not covered in history classes, I know for a fact that I was never taught about the black cowboys in the west. I think this is such an important topic that should be covered during wild west lessons so that the students can understand that being a cowboy could included many different races. Looking at these articles over the semester has truly opened my eyes to the racial prejudice that is shown unconsciously and purposely in the elementary classrooms.

  60. I found this article remarkably interesting. I too did not realize that there were so many black cowboys in the wild west. The cowboys that were mentioned in this article were very interesting to read about it. When you asked, “What can teachers do?” I think the first thing is for teachers to dive deeper and not just settle for the history that they were taught. Part of being a teacher is being a lifelong learner. There is so much that teachers do not know, so too many times they just stick with what they already know. That is not enough. Teachers need to seek out history of diverse Americans and make it a part of their everyday curriculum, not just for special holidays or months.

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