Black Cowboys of Rodeo: Unsung Heroes from Harlem to Hollywood and the American West

Keith Ryan Cartwright. Univ. of Nebraska, $34.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4962-2610-5
The myths and legend of the American West meet the real-life struggles and triumphs of Black cowboys in this fascinating account from journalist Cartwright (Professional Bull Riders). Drawing from interviews with rodeo champions, ranch hands, and others, he illuminates how, over the past century, Black cowboys have “pushed against the boundaries... and transcended the racial animus they faced.” Among the many notable figures spotlighted are cowboy Bill Pickett, whose “steer rasslin’ ” during the Jim Crow era made him an international star; Cleo Hearn, who, in the mid-1960s, became the first Black cowboy to win a high school state title in segregated Texas; and Dihigi Gladney, a Californian bull rider turned jockey who made a stunning comeback as a sought-after trainer five years after a race injury in 1993 nearly killed him. Varied as these stories are, they form a vibrant showcase of Black resilience in the face of unrelenting racism, and illustrate how, despite being often forgotten to history, these men played a major role in shaping American identity. As one former bullfighter recounts, “In the beginning, they wouldn’t let us win, but before it was all said and done, we dominated.” This stirring history will have readers rethinking the very definition of Americana. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 10/01/2021
Release date: 11/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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