The Forgotten History of The Wild West

Cassidy Hanton

Hello, my loves! 

Today I have a unique article for you!

Everyone has heard of cowboys. Everyone has heard the myths. Lone wolves with their revolvers, ready to fight for justice. Their appearance is always the same; tall, muscular, bearded, white. 

What if I told you, 1 in 4 cowboys was black? 

Surprised, huh? As it turns out, you’re not the only one! Most Americans are unaware of this and I was just as amazed as most when I found out.

​America Used To Be As Diverse As It Is Today, That’s The Beauty Of It!

Before slavery was abolished, the life of a cowboy was the only freedom the average African American men could have. The equality which came with the cowboy life was something revolutionary for its time. They slept in the same beds and they even received the same wages as their white comrades! 

However, only black men would have been called “boy”, hence where the word “cowboy” came from. A white man wouldn’t be called something that was so often used for slaves; that would be demeaning! 

On top of that, the work of a cowboy was no easy task! Someone had to do it and many preferred the easier route; African American slaves. 

When Texas ranchers fought in the American Civil War, they had to depend on their slaves to care for their land and cattle. In turn, the slaves developed skills unmatched to anyone and that deemed them irreplaceable in the post-war era. 

​Desperate For Their skills, Ranchers, Hired, The Now, Free African-Americans!

Despite their demand, their life was characterised by high degrees of racism and hardships. Unlike their white counterparts, many black cowboys were declined entry to restaurants and even whole towns. It was truly horrible!

However, their spirit only got stronger and they never allowed discrimination to limit them. This is a true example of the cowboy spirit; it can never be blemished!

Some truly remarkable examples are:

Nat Love

Nat Love was a man born in slavery. He managed to master the skill of roping, and branding horses and cattle throughout his life. He also learned how to write and read, something most slaves weren’t allowed to do!

After he was freed, he and his father started working on a farm, but this was all stopped after Nat’s father’s death. He managed to win in a raffle and he gave half of the money to his mother, doing everything in his power to support her. 

He soon moved to Dodge City—as a cowboy—where he became a living legend, earning nicknames that only respected men earned at that time. 

There are many legends and myths about Nat Love, but I’ll leave those for another time!

Boke Ikard

Bose Ikarb was born in Mississippi, as a slave. It is believed his father was a slave master named Dr. Milton Ikard, but there’s no concrete proof of that. After the Civil War, Bose gained his freedom and began his adventure as a cowboy, marking his place in Western lore. 

Charles Goodnight, the man Bose Ikarb worked for, built a strong friendship with Bose and he was impressed by his work and life ethics. Goodnight praised Bose on an engraved monument, giving us an insight of what a magnificent person he really was!

Ison Dart

As yet another man born in slavery, Ison Dart’s (Also named Ned Huddleston) story is one worth telling. Born in Arkansas, he helped Confederate soldiers steal food during the civil war!

After he was freed, he traveled across Texas and Mexico, rustling cattle, which was a horrible crime for the time. He had to make a living somehow and his only solution was stealing. He tried changing, aiming to become a better person, but he was unsuccessful. 

His life only went downhill from there and he became infamous for his involvement in gambling and numerous fights. Just like before, he tried to turn his life around, hoping to become a better man, but he failed to do so. 

Not everyone is a perfect human and he wasn’t either. Though, he shows us the harsh reality that came with the dangerous life of the west!

As you can see, black cowboys were (and still are) a big thing in the West. Unfortunately, many people, outside the area, are very unfamiliar with this. What about you, my dears?

 Have you ever heard of them before? 

Do you have any thrilling stories to share?

I would love to hear from you! I can’t wait to hear your comments and thoughts on this. 

Until next time!

Written by Cassidy Hanton

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