Black History Month is the perfect time to reflect on a many times forgotten era of both Colorado history and the Wild West. Black cowboys were not only around in the 1800s, they had a great influence in settling the west and creating the rodeo pastimes we know and love today. It is estimated that 1 in 4 cowboys in the west after the 1860s was black.
African Americans were involved in all types of careers up and down the western plains. Bill Pickett influenced rodeo by developing a new technique for wrestling steers in the late 19th century. “Bulldogging,” was a technique made famous by Bill that involved the cowboy biting the upper lip of a steer and forcing it to the ground with no hands.
Nat Love was another individual that epitomized what it was to be a cowboy. Born a slave, Nat eventually made his way to the west. Nat even wrote a book telling the tales of his life; “The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as Deadwood Dick.”
Blacks not only headed west to work with cattle, but many came to stake claims in farm and ranch land, some even worked to tame the wild west. Bass Reeves worked as a deputy U.S. Marshal whose claim to fame included winning 14 different shoot-outs.
Visit these sites to learn more about a forgotten piece of the wild west and don’t miss all of the great programming that the libraries are doing this month!