Despite what Hollywood portrays on the big screen, not all cowboys were white. As a matter of fact, about one quarter of cowboys in the American West were African American.
As the United States emerged from the Civil War, freed and former slaves entered a world with new opportunities and limitations alike. The experiences of famous African American cowboys, and those of lesser-known status, highlight the diversity of the Wild West.
As hard-working cowhands, well-respected lawmen, and troublesome outlaws, African Americans on the frontier shaped the development of the American West. Men like Bass Reeves, Bill Pickett, and Nat Love found adventure and excitement out west, and they also experienced levels of independence and notoriety unknown to their counterparts in other parts of the developing nation.
Former Slaves Had All Of The Skills Needed To Be Cowhands
Most African American Cowboys Grew Up Enslaved
African American Men Found Opportunities For New Lives By Migrating To Rural Areas
African American Women Were Cowhands Out West, Too
Former Slaves Were Paid For What They’d Previously Been Forced To Do
Surviving On The Frontier Didn’t Involve Color