Black History encapsulates more than a month. This new daily series will take a look at some lesser known events and people in the world.
Giddy up, readers, because you’re about to learn about the dichotomy between the Wild West you know and reality. In the movies, the era is considered completely white and mostly male. In reality, it was partially white and maybe less male. All of this is to say that cowboys weren’t completely white; 25% of them were black.
A multitude of movies typically depict the Old West and its heroes comprised of Clint Eastwood-types. They speak in grumbles. They’re always angry. They prefer solitude. But cowboys were so much more than grizzled white men.
Take Bill Pickett for instance. He was a rodeo star; a son born to Indian and black parents. Everything he learned came from working on a Texas ranch. Eventually, Pickett joined a traveling rodeo show where he introduced steer wrestling. His version, however, involved biting the lip of the steer so that it can follow commands. The method worked -- eventually being dubbed “bulldogging.” Other black cowboys included Vincent Jacobs who, in the 1950’s, dealt with severe racism in his rodeo days.
Black cowboys are also said to have influenced movies and tv shows. Lone Ranger was a supposed take on a black lawman named Bass Reeves who would utilize disguises in his work. Recent westerns don’t hide behind white heroes. The Magnificent Seven and Django Unchained both feature leading main characters that are of color. Or -- a funny take -- Mel Brooks’ movie Blazing Saddles.
The wild wild west just got a way cooler.