... "American cowboys were drawn from multiple sources. By the late 1860s, following the American Civil War and the expansion of the cattle industry, former soldiers from both the Union and Confederacy came west, seeking work, as did large numbers of restless white men in general. A significant number of African-American freedmen also were drawn to cowboy life, in part because there was not quite as much discrimination in the west as in other areas of American society at the time. A significant number of Mexicans and American Indians already living in the region also worked as cowboys. Later, particularly after 1890, when American policy promoted 'assimilation' of Indian people, some Indian boarding schools also taught ranching skills. Today, some Native Americans in the western United States own cattle and small ranches, and many are still employed as cowboys, especially on ranches located near Indian Reservations. The 'Indian Cowboy' also became a commonplace sight on the rodeo circuit.

Because cowboys ranked low in the social structure of the period, there are no firm figures on the actual proportion of various races. One writer states that cowboys were '...of two classes-those recruited from Texas and other States on the eastern slope; and Mexicans, from the south-western region...' Census records suggest that about 15% of all cowboys were of African-American ancestry-ranging from about 25% on the trail drives out of Texas, to very few in the northwest. Similarly, cowboys of Mexican descent also averaged about 15% of the total, but were more common in Texas and the southwest. Other estimates suggest that in the late 19th century, one out of every three cowboys was a Mexican vaquero, and 20% may have been African-American." ...

Bronco Sam
Isom Dart aka Ned Huddleston, Black Fox and Calico Cowboy
Robert L. Fortune
George Glenn
Amos Harris/Black Cowboy
Ben Hodges
Bose Ikard
Addison Jones
Bob Leavitt
Nate Love aka Deadwood Dick and Red River Dick/Black Cowboy
Jess Morris
One Horse Charley
Willie M. Pickett aka Bill Pickett, the Bull Dodger and the Greatest Cowboy
Matt Rash
Bass Reeves
Jessie Stahl
Moses Speese
John Ware
Charlie Willis

For More Information on Black Cowboys:

Black Cowboys of the Old West: True, Sensational, And Little-Known Stories From History
"The word cowboy conjures up vivid images of rugged men on saddled horses-men lassoing cattle, riding bulls, or brandishing guns in a shoot-out. White men, as Hollywood remembers them. What is woefully missing from these scenes is their counterparts: the black cowboys who made up one-fourth of the wranglers and rodeo riders. This book tells their story. When the Civil War ended, black men left the Old South in large numbers to seek a living in the Old West-industrious men resolved to carve out a life for themselves on the wild, roaming plains. Some had experience working cattle from their time as slaves; others simply sought a freedom they had never known before. The lucky travelled on horseback; the rest, by foot. Over dirt roads they went from Alabama and South Carolina to present-day Texas and California up north through Kansas to Montana. The Old West was a land of opportunity for these adventurous wranglers and future rodeo champions. A long overdue testament to the courage and skill of black cowboys, Black Cowboys of the Old West finally gives these courageous men their rightful place in history." Amazon
The Adventures of the Negro Cowboys, by Philip Duram and Everett L. Jones
The Black West: A Documentary and Pictorial History of the African American Role in the Westward Expansion of the United States, by William Loren Katz.
First posted: June 22, 2014
Last update: Jan 21, 2020