National Western’s MLK Jr. Rodeo a reminder of African Americans’ contributions to the West
The West, even 2 generations ago was a place where people could go to find a new life separate from their history, mistakes, family, or hardships. Some of the people who struck out for the West were African Americans. The "black" cowboy is an important part of the West's story. The West was, and in many respects still is, a land of freedom.
(From The Denver Post)
One out of three cowboys in the Old West were black, but Hollywood Westerns largely erased them from the picture and popular imagination, said Daphne Rice-Allen, chairwoman of the board at the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center in Denver.
Slaves were often given the task of handling livestock on plantations and ranches, more so when the owners went off to fight in the Civil War. Following emancipation, their skills in handling horses and cattle and their willingness to take on difficult and dangerous work put them in high demand.
“There were and still are African Americans who have horses, who have ranches and farms and who do that kind of life,” said Rice-Allen. The MLK Jr. Rodeo brings that heritage to the forefront, helping educate city dwellers who often have no clue.
We love that last line. With fairness to our urban readers (not that we live on a ranch or anything), that is too darn true.