The Myth of Black Cowboys

American history erased by Hollywood in need of correction

That’s me. Stetson n’ all. But that aint America ( it’s Wadi Rum) and I ain’t America, but as you read this a brisk wind is carrying swathes of twitter replies to a post I made a couple of days ago.

The story starts with The New Yorker publishing a piece by Emily Raboteau. Her piec,e a myth busting 800 word article on Black Cowboys was originally published in January 22, 2017 to coincide with an exhibition “Black Cowboy,” at the Studio Museum in Harlem. I don’t know whether it’s still running.

Raboteau, an award winning writer and photographer, pointed to the diminution of black cowboys in American films, such as John Ford’s classic film “The Searchers, and a litany of John Wayne features.

What has singularly happened to this history being diminished. I weighed in my two pence ( I’m a brit — pence). In the 1990s I co-presented a radio show on BBC London that covered black culture, news and history. On the show we had many guests: Thulani Davies, Alice Walker, Maceo Parker, Fela Kuti and Walter Mosley to name but a few. Mosley I remembered said something interesting. Where was that clip? After some rummaging around, I found the clip on my 20 year old iMac and posted this.

The whole thread via The New Yorker is captivating, so apologies for not featuring that. The tweet replies started coming in and they’re still coming. . Here’s a screen capture of twitter getting up to speed.

@gladiatormoms Michelle Santiago pinged in and I remembered something else.

Cowboys a hollywood symbol of American expansionism and patriotism. Black Cowboys nil. The second interview, also a giant in American film was also on my Mac. The legend Melvin Van Peebles talking briefly about the film Posse (1993) featuring black cowboys. More sharing from twittersphere.

So if you’re a black cowboy or know anything about its history, perhaps this gapping hole in popular knowledge can be plugged. You know where to drop a tweet. No, not me @newyorker

An interesting side narrative to the exchange was realising how much in the way of archive I have in audio e.g. 1/4 inch tape and beta and DV tape of film since the 1990s.

Mmmm crowd fund. Anyone?

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah is a senior lecturer at Cardiff University. More here.

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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