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 Black Cowboys: An American Story

Did you know that one of four cowboys who went on the trail was Black?  Black Cowboys: An American Story explores the lives and work of the numerous Black men, women and children – enslaved and free – who labored on the ranches of Texas and participated on cattle drives before the Civil War through the turn of the twentieth century.  

You’ll gain 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.

Be transported through time to meet a variety of real Black cowboys and hear accounts of courage in the face of discrimination, skill to overcome great odds and success through generations of ranching and becoming leaders in their field.

Indoor wooden alter with television

Hector Bazy, portrayed through a film by distinguished actor and playwright Eugene Lee, provides a first-hand account of his experience in the exhibition. 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.

A new, additional film takes you through the history and evolution of Black rodeos, from the historical exploits of Nat Love to formal rodeo competitions of today. Updates and redesigns for this encore presentation also include highlights of entrepreneurs John Dolford “Bob” and Almeady Jones and Matthew “Bones” Hooks.

Throughout the 20th century, the role of Black cowboys evolved as they used skills learned on the ranch and trail as they became land owners, lawmen, rodeo cowboys, singers and actors. Today, the lives and legacies of Black cowboys continue to inspire generations to explore the past through music, film, design and fashion—including singer Leon Bridges’ Met Gala attire.

archive image of black cowboys
Courtesy of Denver Public Library, Special Collections

Special Thanks

Black Cowboys: An American Story is generously supported by Bank of America, the Ed Rachal Foundation, John L. Santikos Charitable Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation and H-E-B.

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