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Groundbreaking ‘Black Cowboys: An American Story’ returns to the Witte Museum

Inside the Black Cowboys exhibition. Photo credit to Two Sapphires photography.

This updated exhibition transports visitors through time to meet real Black cowboys and gain a greater appreciation of their deep impact on American history.

Explore the lives and work of the numerous Black men, women and children – enslaved and free – who labored on the ranches of Texas and participated in cattle drives before the Civil War through the turn of the twentieth century in Black Cowboys: An American Story, returning to the Witte Museum on June 15, 2024. Updated and redesigned for its encore presentation, this powerful exhibition offers insight into legendary cowboys, a clearer picture of the Black West and a more diverse portrait of the American West with artifacts, photographs and documents depicting the work and skills of Black cowboys.

“The Witte is excited to welcome back this exhibition, showcasing the powerful stories of Black cowboys,” said Witte Museum CEO & President, Dirk Elmendorf. “This is the culmination of an amazing collaboration between our community of cowboys, ranchers and scholars to give a more complete perspective on the history of Texas. This exhibition gives you a view from the saddle of the importance of Black cowboys in the American West.”

This exhibition shares accounts of Black cowboys who exercised courage in the face of discrimination, skill to overcome great odds and success through generations of ranching and becoming leaders in their field. Museum visitors will discover how Black cowboys tamed and trained horses, tended livestock and rode on the trail with thousands of cattle across America. Over time, the role of Black cowboys evolved as they used the skills they learned on the ranch and trail to own their own ranches, serve as lawmen, ride in rodeos, become singers and perform in movies. Today, the lives and legacies of Black cowboys have inspired new generations to explore the past through music, film, fashion and design.

Central to the exhibition is a film about Hector Bazy, portrayed by distinguished actor and playwright Eugene Lee. Born enslaved on a plantation in Grimes County, Texas in 1851, Bazy wrote an autobiography in 1910 describing the exhilarating and dangerous work of cowboy life. In the film, Lee speaks Bazy’s own words to describe his experiences.

“Black cowboys were integral to the growth of Texas’ cattle industry immediately after the Civil War,” said Ron Davis II, Witte Museum Curator of American History, who co-curated the exhibition alongside Witte Museum Texas History Curator Bruce Shackelford. “In fact, one in four cowboys who went up the trails was a Black cowboy.”

Black Cowboys originally opened at the Witte Museum on November 6, 2021 and ran through April 3, 2022. Since then, the Witte has traveled the exhibition nationally to other museums, including the African American Museum of Dallas, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, where it served as inspiration for musical artist Leon Bridges’ Met Gala attire.

For its return to San Antonio, Witte experts have added new information about the Hawkins Ranch, George Ranch and the Jones Ranch, as well as a feature on Matthew “Bones” Hooks, a founder of the Black community in Amarillo. A new film in the exhibition will explore the history and evolution of Black rodeos, from the historical exploits of Nat Love to formal rodeo competitions of today.

Black Cowboys: An American Story will run June 15, 2024 through February 9, 2025 in the first floor of the Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center at the Witte Museum.

Following the exhibition’s conclusion at the Witte, Black Cowboys will continue to travel to other museums, including the Autry Museum of the American West in California and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in Michigan.

Tickets for Black Cowboys: An American Story can be reserved online at The exhibition is included Museum Admission.

Explore Texas history all year long with a Witte Museum Membership, where yearly general admission is just the beginning. Memberships can be purchased at

Media Information

Press requests for interview opportunities, photography or information can be directed to Jonathan Miles, Chief of Communications.


Jonathan Miles
Chief of Communications