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Black Cowboys of Texas: Exploring the Untold Story Behind Bold African American Men

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The Black Cowboys of Texas tells the extraordinary story of African Americans who worked alongside the vaqueros and the Anglo cowboys. To help new residents sell and build a life on the frontier, black cowboys of Texas trained with vaqueros of New Spain, the stock raisers of the south, and Texas. 

African American cowboys worked daily on cattle farms to drive cattle to branding places and look for markets. They also took care of the castration of the animals and healthy steps to avoid tick fever.

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However, as is typical of cowhands, black cowboys of Texas had a difficult life working as cowboys. Although they were overworked most of the time, they were poorly fed and underpaid. African American cowboys were also sleep deprived, felt cold at night, and suffered broken bones from falls off the horses.

What’s more? In addition to their woes, they faced discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry. 

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Genesis of Black Cowboys of Texas

Video source: VICE News–YouTube

Cattle farming was an economic boost in the 1800s when herds of cattle grazed in Texas. White Americans, in an attempt to evade depth and buy cheap land, moved to the Spanish area of Texas, now Mexico.

They brought black slaves with them to help establish, farm cotton and raise cattle. In the year 1825, about 25% of the population of Texas was African American slaves. The number doubled by 1860, and the Civil War broke out a year later. While the war didn’t reach the shores of Texas, white masters took up arms to help their colleagues on the east side.

In their absence, black slaves were responsible for tending to the cattle, developing the skill of cattle rearing and tending. But by the time the ranchers could return from war to their farms, their cattle had increased and scattered because there were no slaves. 

The Emancipation Proclamation rendered the enslaved free, forcing the white Americans to hire black cowboys from Texas to rebuild their farms.

Challenges and the End of Black Cowboys of Texas

Video source: The New York Times–YouTube

During the post-Civil War period, black cowboys were in more demand than other jobs available to black people. Ranchers hired them to help transport cattle to the northern states, where beef was more in demand than in Texas. 

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In the absence of railroads at the time, black cowboys of Texas were employed to move herds of cattle to shipping points in Missouri, Colorado, and Kansas. They traveled through harsh conditions, facing attacks from native Americans who assumed the black cowboys were threats to their lands.

As such, they faced discrimination in the towns they passed while transporting cattle and were forbidden from entering some restaurants and hotels. Despite these challenges, the black cowboys of Texas stayed together, helping and sharing the little they had with one another. Their harmony extended to other white cowboys, whom they consider equal to themselves.

By the end of the 18th century, railroads were constructed and became the main source of transportation in the West. This decreased the demands of black cowboys, who would eventually become jobless on ranches.

However, the public’s fascination with the lifestyle of black cowboys prevailed. This enthusiast introduced Wild West shows and rodeos that continued the world of black cowboys of Texas to this day.

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Video source: Great Big Story—YouTube

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Sedi Djentuh
Sedi Djentuh
Hey, Sedi here, a content writer. She's fascinated by the interplay between people, lifestyle, relationships, tech and communication dedicated to empowering and spreading positive messages about humanity. She's an avid reader and a student of personal weekly workouts. When she's not writing, Sedi is busy advocating for plastic-free earth with her local NGO.

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