The Plasmatic Writer

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African Americans in the Wild West

Posted on February 20, 2015 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

To honor Black History Month I thought I would look into African American's of the Wild West. Last year, I was at my local library and they had an exhibit about some african american pioneers of the Wild West. I found it quite interesting and differently a unique share of individuals not a lot of people may be aware of. One thing to note about African Americans of the old west is they more then most outsiders wanted to show that they were no different then everyone else and many of the people that I will list were quite established and some had it in for the law just because the law had it in against them for no real reason at all. Many were more then just cowboys but had many jobs such as traders, scouts, explorers, farm and ranch hands as well as doctors, stagecoach drivers and saloonkeepers. They more than likely took their job seriously and appreciated more then most because some people were against them. Here is a list of notable people http://www.geni.com/projects/Blacks-of-the-Old-West/10853 as well as a list and look into some Black Cowboys http://www.geni.com/projects/Black-Cowboys/1986. A very interesting point in the article on Black Cowboys is the opening paragraph. It states that most were freed men after the Civil War and were drawn to the Cowboy life because there wasn't as much discrimination in the West as there were in other areas. It also states that 20% of all cowboys may have been African American, I find this to be a very interesting fact but not only is it not a well known fact but really speaks to what we think we know about the Old West which in reality tends to be that our portrayal of it in most cases isn't as accurate as it should be.


Another thing that is worth noting in the articles is that not only were there notable Black cowboys but they also were marshals and their were even some notable and famous women. Given the time and the fact that discrimination was a constant it's great and inspiring to hear that some Blacks held such high jobs as marshals and that women who had it hard enough being women in those times were making a difference and living their lives to the best of their ability. One woman on the list, Biddy Mason was born in slavery but when she died in 1891 her family was one of the richest in California. It just goes to show you that discrimination as bad as it is didn't stop people from overcoming it, ignoring it and making a difference during the life and times of the Wild West. One of the cowboys on display at the library that I read about that day was Bulldoggin' Bill Pickett, http://www.blackcowboys.com/billpickett.htm. This guy is not only one of the most famous Black cowboys but he was a pioneer and quite the adventurer, heck he even has a poem written about him. I have always enjoyed the Wild West but reading articles like these and coming across these amazing people it really makes me appreciate the wild west so much more.