The True American Cowboy

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The True American Cowboy

As the twentieth century approached, America was experiencing a time of considerable expansion. All eyes were looking for ways to make the United States a larger, more powerful, and more efficient country. Because of this wave in American society, there was no movement given more devotion than the settling of the West. The range-cattle industry in its various aspects, and in its importance to the United States and particularly to the Great Plains, has been a subject of focus to Americans since its origin in the mid 1800's. This industry was rendered possible by such factors as vast sections of fertile land, the rise of heavy industry involving the great demand for beef, and projected commercial tributaries, such as railroad lines across the frontier. The West was turning toward the future - A future that held industrial promises of high monetary rewards as well as a valuable addition to a growing America. However, like any other industry, the West needed a labor force. Workers with special skills and qualities were necessary to support a booming new frontier. Previously untaught skills such as riding, roping, and branding could not simply be acquired by the average American. Athletic, rugged men were needed to settle the West. However, these men also needed inborn courage and quick thinking to utilize these skills effectively. The general public, however, under the influence of decades of "Western" movies and television shows have created an imagery of these "men of the west" or "cowboys" that is extremely inaccurate. American society has come to regard these settlers as the purest and noblest Anglo-Saxons. In reality, a great portion of the work contributed towards the settling of the western frontier was performed by minorities, largely consisting of African Americans.

Kenneth W. Porter has devoted his life to researching the truths about African-Americans in the West. He chronicles his findings in his book, The Negro on the American Frontier. Porter proves that the role of the black man during the settling of the of the land west of the Mississippi River that stretched from the Rio Grande to the Canadian border was crucial not only to the cattle industry, but to the entire country. In his findings, Porter reveals that the West was one of America's first non-segreg...

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...some, like Nat Love, ended up somewhere in the middle (Porter, 1971).

Unfortunately, today the true history of the West has become a nothing more than a myth. History was replaced by fiction, and these falsehoods are perceived by today's society as facts. The true American cowboy, white or black, no longer exists in the minds of Americans. It is only as one delves deeper into the facts that the unperceived truth arises. The success of settling the West can be contributed to men such as Nat Love, but one can certainly not omit the hardworking cowboys who did not live such a glamorous life. The Negro cowboys of this era played a crucial role in facilitating any work on America's new frontier. The Black cowboys were essential to the United States during the late 1800's, in a time when any Negro needed great perseverance against prejudice. For their valiant efforts the Black cowboys should be given great honor and prestige.


Love, Nat, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as

Dead Wood Dick, New York; Arno Press, ©1968.

Porter, Kenneth W., The Negro on the American Frontier, New York; Arno Press,


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