Black Cowboys of Rodeo


Black Cowboys of Rodeo

Unsung Heroes from Harlem to Hollywood and the American West

Keith Ryan Cartwright
Foreword by Danny L. Glover

384 pages
45 photographs, 1 chronology


November 2021


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2021


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2021


$34.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

2023 Best Book Awards Winner in Nonfiction sponsored by American Book Fest

They ride horses, rope calves, buck broncos, ride and fight bulls, and even wrestle steers. They are Black cowboys, and the legacies of their pursuits intersect with those of America’s struggle for racial equality, human rights, and social justice.
Keith Ryan Cartwright brings to life the stories of such pioneers as Cleo Hearn, the first Black cowboy to professionally rope in the Rodeo Cowboy Association; Myrtis Dightman, who became known as the Jackie Robinson of Rodeo after being the first Black cowboy to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo; and Tex Williams, the first Black cowboy to become a state high school rodeo champion in Texas.

Black Cowboys of Rodeo is a collection of one hundred years of stories, told by these revolutionary Black pioneers themselves and set against the backdrop of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, segregation, the civil rights movement, and eventually the integration of a racially divided country.

Author Bio

Keith Ryan Cartwright is a communications specialist for the Rutherford County Board of Education in Tennessee, an adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, and a journalist. He previously served as editorial director and senior writer for Professional Bull Riders Inc. and is the author of Professional Bull Riders: The Official Guide to the Toughest Sport on Earth. Danny L. Glover is an actor, producer, and humanitarian.


"The myths and legend of the American West meet the real-life struggles and triumphs of Black cowboys in this fascinating account from journalist Cartwright. . . . This stirring history will have readers rethinking the very definition of Americana."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"By including cowboys both in the arena and on the screen, Cartwright's stories introduce readers to Black cowboys who created the West and, in part, the development of the iconic cowboy."—Tracey Hanshew, Journal of Sport History

"Cartwright's writing is exceptional. The reader is treated to superb narrative storytelling that makes domestic scenes and road trips just as lively as the rodeos themselves. The author uses oral histories to communicate his subjects' thoughts and experiences in a way that renders complex issues approachable."—Meg Frisbee, South Dakota History

"This is a fantastic book and is a history book that hopefully never gets lost or forgotten. . . . This is a book that should be required reading in American History classes."—Tom Knuppel, KNUP Sports

"An entertaining and informative addition to the genre."—Daily Kos

“Keith Ryan Cartwright’s book is an essential corrective to the lily-white history of the cowboy and the American West that has been promoted by motion pictures and white supremacists for centuries. It works as both a sweeping look at the cowboy ethos and profiles of scores of those whose greatness made America.”—Nelson George, author, filmmaker, music and culture critic

“Can I get a yee-hawBlack Cowboys of Rodeo is a marvel of a book—built with muscular research and smooth writing, resurrecting larger-than-life characters who will amaze and inspire readers. Cowboys have long been symbols of American grit and self-reliance. Black cowboys are that and more. Thank goodness their stories are finally being told—and told so beautifully.”—Jonathan Eig, best-selling author of Ali: A Life

“Hollywood has not always been on the right side of history when it comes to portraying Black cowboys, but a thoroughly researched book like Black Cowboys of Rodeo finally amends that narrative.”—Blair Underwood, actor, producer, and director

“Keith Ryan Cartwright’s masterful excavation of the contribution of Black cowboys to American history is both rich and timely. The engaging stories of the individuals in Black Cowboys of Rodeo chronicle the lives and struggles of men who were not only field hands and laborers but family men, businessmen, entertainers, and entrepreneurs. This book will be illuminating to many still unfamiliar with the important role they played in the taming and shaping of the American West.”—Yohuru Williams, founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas

“Keith Ryan Cartwright is a master storyteller, who has accomplished what could be considered his life’s work in his first attempt. This is a very important book coming at an equally important time.”—Ty Murray, nine-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world champion

Table of Contents

Foreword by Danny L. Glover
Note from the Author
1. Bill Pickett and the 101 Ranch
2. Robert “Money” Jackson
3. Charles, Roy, Clarence, and Kenneth LeBlanc
4. Nathaniel “Rex” Purefoy with Herb Jeffries
5. Willie Thomas Sr. and Harold Cash
6. Bailey’s Prairie Kid (aka Taylor Hall Jr.)
7. Myrtis “Jackie Robinson of Rodeo” Dightman Sr.
8. Freddie “Skeet” Gordon
9. Ernest “Bud” Bramwell Jr.
10. Nelson Jackson Jr.
11. Cleo “Mr. Black Rodeo” Hearn
12. Glynn Turman
13. Tommy Cloud (aka Tommy Cleoll Browning)
14. Eugene “Cowtown Gene,” Jimmy Lee, and Willie Ed Walker with Abraham Morris and John Harp Jr.
15. Thyrl and Mike Latting
16. Charlie Reno (aka Jesse C. R. Hall)
17. Steve Robinson
18. Barry Moore
19. Tex Williams and Larry Callies
20. Obba Babatundé (aka Donald Cohen)
21. James Pickens Jr.
22. Reginald T. Dorsey
23. Donald and Ronald Stephens with Cleatus Stephens
24. Marcous Friday and Charles Evans
25. Bud Bramwell and Cleo Hearn with Charles Evans and Marvel Rogers Sr.
26. Charlie “Pee Wee” Sampson
27. Ervin Williams Jr.
28. Charlie Reno and Steve Robinson
29. Dwayne Hargo Sr.
30. Fred Whitfield
31. Dihigi Gladney with John Davis and California Chrome
32. Gus Trent (aka Harlan Tyrone Ware) with Sedgwick Haynes
33. Dennis Davis with Alvo Tucker and Donald Goodman
34. Steve Reagor with Sidney Reagor
35. Glenn Jackson
36. Dwayne Jr. and Aaron Hargo
37. LaMontre “Tre” Hosley, Chris Byrd, and Stanley “Ray” Taylor
38. Bill Pickett and the U.S. Postal Service
Selected Bibliography


2023 Best Book Awards Winner in Nonfiction sponsored by American Book Fest

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