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The history of Black cowboys on the Western frontier

Black cowboys preparing for a horse race at the Negro State Fair, Bonham, Texas, c. 1913.
Courtesy of the Erwin C. Smith Collection
Texas State Historical Association
Black cowboys preparing for a horse race at the Negro State Fair, Bonham, Texas, c. 1913.

Nat Love was born a slave but died a free cowboy and a legend of the Old West. After the Civil War freed Love from slavery, he walked to Dodge City, Kansas, and got a job breaking horses — after he could prove that he could rope a bucking horse, climb on its back without a saddle, and ride him without falling off. Thus began Nat’s life as a cowboy.

We don’t typically include Black cowboys as part of the American story of the West, even though 1 in 4 American cowboys is Black. Black cowboys are as American as baseball.


  • Zaron Burnett III - Host and creator of the podcast Black Cowboys
  • Patricia Kelly - An African-American cowgirl and the founder of Ebony Horsewomen; she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in 2015

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Colin McEnroe, Jonathan McNicol, and Cat Pastor contributed to this show, which originally aired June 7, 2021.

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Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.
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