The Forgotten Cowboys

  • John Ferguson

As a ten-year-old boy playing cowboys with friends at school in England, I was never allowed to be a cowboy; I could only be a Native American Indian. I was told: "Black boys were never cowboys" or "Have you ever seen a black cowboy?" I had to admit that I had never seen a single black cowboy.  The only cowboys we ever saw were your white archetypal squared-jawed, American gunslinging heroes. Think of our screen legends; The Lone Ranger, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Roy Rogers, Clint Eastwood, right up to The Marlboro Man. The list is endless, but, not one black cowboy amongst them.  Indeed Hollywood played a big part in keeping the cowboy myth alive.  In fact where American history and identity has been projected by Hollywood and the mass media, the non-white settlers have largely been left out of the story.  Thirty years later and enjoying watching those same legends with my own children, I have only just learnt the truth; many of the first cowboys were black.  I have now made it my métier to discover these forgotten cowboys. And I have been both surprised and excited to find a thriving African American cowboy community.