Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

“They Made Me the Best Bronc Rider in the County, But They Weren’t Trying to Make Me A Rider”: Enslaved and Free Black Cowboys in Texas

Ronald W. Davis, II (Department of History, The University of Texas at Austin)

September 15, 2022

During the cattle drive era of Post-Reconstruction Texas, approximately 35,000 cowboys participated in long-distance cattle drives. One in four of those cowboys was Black. Yet, some Black cowboys were born enslaved and learned cowboy work before the Civil War. Ronald Davis is a historian and curator of African American history at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Recently, he cocurated the exhibit Black Cowboys: An American Story, which will travel through the Smithsonian. This webinar will assist educators in understanding the lived experiences of Black cowboys before and after the Civil War. During the workshop, teachers will learn that the institution of slavery was a malleable one, shaped the demands of the enslaver and the labor performed by the enslaved. They will also learn how Black cowboys navigated racism and discrimination on cattle drives and ranches, two of the few places that did not segregate laborers based upon race. Additionally, we will discuss why Texans, Americans, and Hollywood decided to forget Black cowboys. By the end of the seminar, educators will be able to teach the work Black cowboys did, the experiences they endured, and their essential role in the Texas cattle industry.

History / Education Studies / Social History / Enslaved Persons / Slavery / Reconstruction Era / African American History / Industry /