Black Influence in Rodeo
American Cowboy history includes a rich history with Black influencers that might not be known to the public. Black Cowboy culture is very rich as it includes various organizations and events mostly in the Deep Southern states of Mississippi and Texas.
Black Cowboys were first seen in the post Civil War cattle-drives at an estimate of 6000 cowboys; other cultures, such as Native Americans and Mexicans, made up a quarter of the populations along with African American cowboys. Although cowboys are mostly known to be white, during the height of the Wild West rodeo shows, tens of thousands of Black cowboys were employed in order to showcase their talents.
Bill Picket, a notable Black cowboy, invented a specific style of steer wrestling known as “bulldogging”. Sadly, this history is written out of history books. One way Bill Picket’s legacy is being kept has been through the establishment of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo in 1984 by Lu Vason. The rodeo serves as a way for the Black cowboy community and fans to gather and celebrate across the country. The rodeo also finds a way to bring fashion to cowboy culture through a horse's saddle emblazoned with the Louis Vuitton logo and other works of fashion.
In the late 1940s, weekend rodeos began to include Black Cowboys according to the Texas State Historical Association, which would later cause the formation of the Negro Cowboy Rodeo Association in 1947 due to not being allowed in professional rodeos. The American Black Cowboy Association would much later be established in 1971 by Cleo Hearn once he began to produce rodeos himself. Hearn also founded the Cowboys of Color Rodeo.
Due to the establishment of various associations, learning, and participation in Black cowboy rodeos, the community is growing and facing less discrimination than in previous decades. The future of the Black Cowboy and Cowgirl community is looking brighter.
The Bill Picket Rodeo Series takes place In Memphis TN from April 21st-23rd 2023. Find more information and events here!
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