Communities

Twitter troll learns about the history of black cowboys the hard way.

by Tod Perry

October 1, 2018
When most people think of cowboys they conjure up an image of John Wayne or the Marlboro Man. 
 
That’s because cowboys in movies, TV, and advertising have always been white. However, according to historians, one in four cowboys were black. 
 

 

 
A Twitter user learned this lesson the hard way on September 28, when IGN tweeted that an upcoming video game, “Red Dead Redemption 2,” will feature multiple black cowboys. Twitter user @JaredAtNight replied, “Ah so I see they’re going for a fantasy angle on this game. Why not throw in some dragons and magic too?”
 
 
While one can’t be sure if @JaredatNight was acting out of racial resentment or just didn’t know his history, black cowboys have mostly been absent from pop culture, so it’s not crazy to think they didn’t exist.
 
That’s why representation matters. 
 
Twitter user Spooky Scaryface Ghost stepped in to set @JaredatNight straight with a little history lesson.
 
Which @JaredatNight couldn’t handle. 
 
The presence of black cowboys in the wild west is the result of slavery and the Civil War.
 
According to Smithsonian, in 1825, slaves accounted for nearly 25% of the Texas settler population. After the state joined the Confederacy in 1861, white rangers went east to fight in the Civil War. While white Texans fought in the war, the ranchers depended on slaves to maintain their land and cattle herds. 
 
After the war and the Emancipation Proclamation, the freed slaves took up jobs in the cattle industry. 
 
“Right after the Civil War, being a cowboy was one of the few jobs open to men of color who wanted to not serve as elevator operators or delivery boys or other similar occupations,” William Loren Katz, author of “The Black West,” told Smithsonian.  
 
One famous African-American cowboy turned author was Nat Love. 
 
 
“A braver, truer set of men never lived than these wild sons of the plains whose home was in the saddle and their couch, mother earth, with the sky for a covering,” Love wrote. “They were always ready to share their blanket and their last ration with a less fortunate fellow companion and always assisted each other in the many trying situations that were continually coming up in a cowboy’s life.”

Share image by University of California San Diego/Wikimedia Commons

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Twitter troll learns about the history of black cowboys the hard way.