Black Cowboys

Black Cowboys

Zaron Burnett’s dad didn’t want slavery to be his son’s only image of Black people in American history. So every night, he filled Zaron’s dreams with these incredible stories of Black cowboys. Despite what Hollywood taught us, one-in-four cowboys were Black. Their stories tell a bigger, braver, more honest history of America.

Episodes

May 14, 2021 47 min

Zaron grew up watching Westerns with Pop, and together they explore the history of Black cowboys on the big screen.

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When a young white college kid named Patrick meets up with a singing Black cowboy named Panhandle Slim, a whole world is revealed through Slim's intimate "story songs."

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April 15, 2021 48 min

Bill Pickett, the greatest showman of Wild West. A Black cowboy born free, in 1870, in Travis County, Texas. He invented a whole rodeo sport, became an icon of toughness, and thrilled crowds across North America. But when his promoters set him up to face a raging bull in Mexico City, the ensuing fight over cultural supremacy has dangerous consequences.

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April 1, 2021 43 min

Stagecoach Mary was a woman on her own in the world, who did most of her hard living after the age of 40. She lived with nuns in the daytime, drank whiskey with men in saloons at night. She was the first black woman to drive a wagon for the US postal service. Tough as she was, she was also known for the verdant lushness of her well-tended gardens. 

Mary was a woman of dualities, and yet, also limitless complexities. Over time, her l...

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March 25, 2021 53 min

Long before the divisive question of slavery was finally settled in the Civil War, there were the Seminole Wars — three of them —- and they were the largest sustained revolt of formerly enslaved people and their Indigenous allies. 

On the one side there was Andrew Jackson; on the other was a Black Seminole, Chief John Horse. By the end of his long life, he would come to be called the Moses of the Seminoles. He would fight for and ag...

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The story of Black cowboys begins not on horseback riding the high plains, but with horses tied up on Spanish ships riding the high seas. Meet Esteban the Negro. Or Esteban the Moor. The Spanish called him Estevanico. Before his voyage and his adventures in North America are over, he will transform from a slave into a god. 

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March 4, 2021 45 min

Bass Reeves was the most lethal lawman in the wild west. Over his 32-year career Reeves arrested more than 3,000 alleged criminals, and killed more than a dozen of them. But the image of a formerly enslaved Black man riding around on horseback with a license to kill tended to make white people uncomfortable. Hear how Bass Reeves commitment to justice overcame racism, and even his own family bonds.

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February 25, 2021 50 min

The most famous Black outlaw from the wild west era was a Cherokee Freedmen, the mixed son of a Buffalo soldier and Cherokee mother. His name was Crawford Goldsby. But both the New York Times and his own mother called him: Cherokee Bill. This episode explores the ideas of law, order and justice at a time when there was little of any of those for Black Americans.

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In this episode we meet Nat Love, the toughest Black Cowboy. But Nat Love’s life was more than just wild horses and gunfights. This is the story of an enslaved man who found freedom in the West. A man who roamed America, just like they did in the westerns. He did it for real.

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February 8, 2021 1 min


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