A History Of Black Cowboys And The Myth That The West Was White #championsofdiversity #BlackHistoryMonth

Ellis “Mountain Man” Harris - The Federation of Black Cowboys

A quick internet search of “American cowboy” yields a predictable crop of images. Husky men with weathered expressions can be seen galloping on horseback. They’re often dressed in denim or plaid, with a bandana tied ‘round their neck and a cowboy hat perched atop their head. Lassos are likely being swung overhead. And yes, they’re all white.

Contrary to what the homogenous imagery depicted by Hollywood and history books would lead you to believe, cowboys of color have had a substantial presence on the Western frontier since the 1500s. In fact, the word “cowboy” is believed by some to have emerged as a derogatory term used to describe Black cowhands.

An ongoing photography exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem celebrates the legacy of the “Black Cowboy” while chronicling the unlikely places around the country where cowboy culture thrives today. Through their photographs, artists like Brad Trent, Deanna Lawson and Ron Tarver work to retire the persistent myth that equates cowboys with whiteness. (read more)

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