Cover image for Black cowboys of Texas
Black cowboys of Texas
Massey, Sara R.
First edition.
Publication Information:
College Station : Texas A & M University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xix, 361 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F391 .B58 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The life of a cowboy was hardly glamorous. Poorly fed, underpaid, overworked, deprived of sleep, and prone to boredom and loneliness, cowboys choked in the dust, were cold at night, and suffered broken bones in falls and spills from horses. African American cowboys, however, also had to survive discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice. From scattered courthouse records, writings, and interviews with a few of the African American cowhands who were part of the history of Texas, Sara R. Massey and a host of writers have retrieved the little known stories of some of these cowboys. Among the stories in Black Cowboys of Texas, are those of Peter Martin, a freight hauler who assisted in a rebellion against the Mexican government: Bose Ikard, who went on the cattle drive that opened the Goodnight-Loving Trail; and Johanna July, a Black Seminole woman who trained horses for U.S. soldiers.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The cowboy, and his role in the "winning" of the West, remains one of our enduring national myths. Recent historians have largely dispelled much of the romanticism surrounding cowboy life, but the significant role of African American cowboys has not been widely acknowledged. Massey is a curriculum specialist at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has compiled a broad, interesting anthology that covers a variety of aspects of the subject. As a result, a clear picture emerges, indicating that African Americans were deeply involved in the Texas cattle industry. Although their skill was generally admired by their white peers and their employers, it did not necessarily shield them from the effects of racial bigotry. Massey has provided valuable essays on regional history that enrich our understanding of the heritage of the West. --Jay Freeman

Choice Review

Cowboys are among the most persistent images of 19th-century Texas and US history, but their image traditionally excludes minorities. Massey addresses this oversight with 24 biographical essays about African American men and women who worked in the Texas cattle industry from the slave days of the mid-19th century through the early 20th century. The principal characteristic is diversity: individuals portrayed are slaves and ex-slaves, men and women, ranch hands, drovers who worked the great cattle drives, buffalo soldiers turned cowboy, rodeo cowboys, and successful ranchers. Very unusual was a black Seminole woman from northern Mexico who worked as a meste~nera, rounding up and breaking the wild mustangs. The essayists--a mix of academic historians, educators, public historians, and amateurs--are as diverse as their subjects. Alwyn Barr, dean of Texas historians of the African American experience, provides an introduction that places black cowboys within their historical context in the Lone Star State. The essays are well documented. Many are based on firsthand accounts using WPA and old newspaper interviews with the cowboys themselves; others rely on family memories. Overall, the volume provides excellent insight into the diversity of Texas cowboy life in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Accessible to undergraduates and general readers. C. D. Wintz; Texas Southern University