The Stream

Why have Black cowboys been erased from US history books?

On Monday, April 5 at 19:30 GMT:
Many people are unaware of the rich history of the American West’s Black cowboys, all too often whitewashed from popular culture and official histories.

A new Netflix film ‘Concrete Cowboy’ takes the audience inside the lives of some of today’s cowboys in the city of Philadelphia. The movie, based on the book ‘Ghetto Cowboy’ by Greg Neri, explores a father-son dynamic amidst a culture of Black horse riders, dedicated to their heritage.

Historians estimate that one in four cowboys was Black as settlers surged to the Wild West in search of cheap land and fresh starts. Black cowboys started to leave the lifestyle at the turn of the century, though, as the cattle industry began to rely more on railroads and barbed wire to herd and contain cattle, rather than on the storied horseback herders of old. Unlike their white counterparts, Black cowboys could not easily purchase land, and the transition hit them harder.

In Philadelphia, though, Black cowboys thrived for another century by operating horse-drawn carriages and running urban stables. Today, the Fletcher Street stables, where the film is set, are threatened by gentrification like so many others before them.

In this episode, we discuss the heritage of Black cowboys and the lives of Black cowboys and cowgirls in urban areas.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Greg Neri, @g_neri
Author, Ghetto Cowboy

Ricky Staub, @NeigborhoodFilm
Director, Concrete Cowboy

Erin Brown
Executive Director, Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy