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The Colour of The Old West
One Saturday afternoon, while watching old Black and White Westerns on television, I wondered about the real cowboys of the 17 and 1800’s – their real physical makeup…their real character(s) and lifestyle. I wondered why Black Cowboys weren’t portrayed…or talked about…on TV. I wondered why we as youngsters cheered for character actors like John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Buster Crabb, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, and many others who came to save the homesteaders. We cheered the knights with their trumpets as they rode to save the day. They save the forts, the women and children, the townspeople, and save the flocks every weekend in the movies and on TV.
They also killed and massacred the Indians…The Native Americans…The Real Americans who have…(the Original Home Land Security) fighting terrorism since 1492. They, the good people, killed hundreds of thousands in the name of posterity and the betterment of white America…and we had fun.
We as kids and Black movie goers, book readers, and television watchers cheered for the good guys in the white hats who got the girl and rode off into the sunset…we cheered for the all white cast of heroes and heroines. Are there no heroes of color? When Chuck Conners played The Great Chieftain Geronimo, we cheered. Charles Bronson characterized Chato…we cheered. We cried loudly for the Cheyenne when they were caught and herded. Why didn’t we stop supporting the all-white cast of characters back then…especially when we found out there was a huge difference in racial makeup?
Later, in the 60s, we got Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte of “Buck and The Preacher. They were two Black characterizations of pioneers who made contact with Native Americans. Honest trade and mutual respect prevailed one of this kinship. Brother Jim Brown is another role model we all look up to. He gets the girl and some freedom too. Even so, they find a way to kill the Brother before the picture ends. Where is the usual ( Black Cowboys – these are the heroes who taught the white cowboy(s) how to be cowboys? They taught them how to ride and rope…to steer wrestle and bulldog. Current shows and past rodeos rarely have Black Cowboy(s) with them on their junkets… The Black Cowboys had to do their own rodeo show(s) yesterday and today. The white west would have us believe there are no Black Cowboys, m just slaves…and we believed them.
They told us that Bill Pickett and Willis Meade (remember Lonesome Dove?) were white while they were known to actually be Black…and we believed them. Have you ever seen movies and TV shows where army troops and wagon trains use scouts who are always White? Did you ever stop and wonder how these white frontiersmen knew the lay of the land? How did they interact with the Native American War Parties when all they did was bring slaughter, destruction, and death to these noble people?
The Black and (so-called) Red Men are in fact, relatives! Have you ever wondered about your friend who told you about his Indian relatives…their Grandparents…their Grandparents? Many of us pass on the belief that they want to be identified, as other than Black – they don’t want to be Black. People can say things like – “they are not Indians, they just don’t want to be Black Folks because they are nappy headed and want to be like white people”. We have heard many say that they are children of the Cherokee, Seminole, or Black Feet. Many of us didn’t believe…guess what? I have news for you…we are wrong – really wrong! To disbelieve them is another one of the treacherous paths and disenfranchised heritage denied us by the European descendants who claim this land as their own. We as Black Americans have more Indian bloodline than you think…or want to believe.
William L. Katz, the author of forty books, a scholar in residence at Teachers College, Columbia University, Consultant at the Smithsonian Institute of New York City, has done extensive research on the history of “Black Indians.” Mr. Katz’s work includes studies and writings on The Black West, Black Women of the Old West, and African American Slave Resistance. He has some enlightening information and data proving our Red, Black, Asian, Latino, Native American, and White bloodlines.
The Old West, as White European American history books say, refuses to recognize the reality of Black contributions (other than slave labor) to the West in America as well as other aspects of nation-building efforts and efforts. .
The names of Black individuals in many old (and new) western movies and TV shows are used…but given to white characters. William “Bill” Pickett (“The Dusky Demon”), Bose (Boise) Ikard, George Monroe, William Robinson, Willis Meade – aka Willis Peoples of Meade, Kansas, and Pvt. George Washington is just a few of the famous Black frontiersmen-pioneers decorated with the use of the name of white movie and TV actors and filmmakers.
“Today, most Black Indians do not live in the forests or on the vast plains of the U.S. Most do not live on government reservations set aside for Native Americans any more than most Indians. Cock Reservations in Long Island of New York. But many more walk the crowded streets of nearby New York City. They abound in the Cement Caverns of Boston, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, Cleveland, and Detroit,” according to Katz.
Tourists visiting Oklahoma City, Oklahoma can see the memorial to Black Cowboy Bill Pickett at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Known as the “Dusky Demon”, Pickett is credited with inventing the sport of “Bulldogging” and became a star of the 101 Ranch Show. Bill Miller, owner of the ranch, considered Pickett the best cow he had ever met. Pickett died in 1935. The “Goodnight Trail” was the route taken by the large herds of steers. Charles Goodnight, a white man, owned the herds. The trail leads from Texas to New Mexico to railroad centers in Colorado. Boise Ikard is the cowboy Goodnight relies on to get his herd to market. The Black Cowboy not only saved the lives of the owners of the herd but the lives of an entire crew of cowboys. He saves the cowboy crew when a herd of cattle gets upset and suddenly stampedes. Goodnight built a memorial to Ikard, his friend, after his death in 1929.
The Pony Express was started in 1860. It enabled mail to go as far west as San Francisco, California. Letters from the East reached as far as the railroad could go, St. Joseph Missouri. From that point, a series of expert riders carried the mail via relays to Sacramento, California. Both rider and horse traveled about seventy-five miles. They need to have a lot of patience to provide the service. George Monroe, one of the Black Pony Express Riders, carried the mail from Merced to Mary Sosa, California. Another Black Rider was William Robinson. His run was from Stockton to the gold mining regions. The sight of a Pony Express Rider is a welcome sight. It doesn’t matter if the rider is White or Black. Mail from home is a most welcome sight in all parts of the west. Brother Willis “Meade” Peoples was a Black Rancher from Meade, Kansas who gained local fame when he tracked down and killed the notorious predator “Two-Toes.” “Two-Toes,” was a wolf that killed many cattle in that area. Private George Washington was a member of the famous All-Black 10th Cavalry. He was deputed to join in the capture of “Billy the Kid.” Washington encourages Billy to meet with legislator Lew Wallace.
Real life heroes and American contributors can and should be role models for all – Black, White, Asian, Latino, Mexican, Native American, etc – children and adults as opposed to an all-white cast of characters.
“Citizens celebrate this country’s courageous departure from colonial rule, and rejoice in the daring minutes that defied the British at Lexington and Concord. But a month before the historic battles on the road to independence, other Americans espoused the same cause. Slaves in Ulster County, New York, planned a mass armed insurrection. Perhaps they had heard the stirring patriotic talk of liberty and freedom. Their emancipation plan involved slaves in Kingston, Hurley, Marble town, and more than five hundred Native Americans. Unlike the minutemen, their The shooting was not heard around the world, their daring conspiracy did not reach the American or European history books.”
March 5, 1770, Crispus Attucks, a Black Natick Indian, made his way into US history in Boston, Katz said. “He was the first to fall in the Boston massacre. Attucks was transformed into a Nantucket Indian. It seems wrong to place an African American with Native American blood in the first moments of American Independence,” according to Benson J. Lossing. Historians of America and Europe knew that African Americans had a history and refused to acknowledge or record it. With fewer weapons, alliances between Black and (so-called) Red people in the woods challenged the footholds Europeans had built in the western hemisphere, Katz said. “Using guerilla tactics that would become popular in China and Viet Nam in our own country, the Red and Black People defeated vastly outnumbered and better equipped foreign armies. They succeeded while alienating their families in harm’s way. These dark liberators often prove that European rule in America amounts to a thin coat of white paint over a smoldering Dark Empire.”
In movies, generations of young minds are trained to imagine life on the American Frontier as a legend of white bravery – John Wayne’s cowboys beat the Indians to give us the USA while children of every race was delighted with the version of the border served. every Saturday afternoon.
Agreeing with Katz, I also believe in the real forest where the two Dark Complexed People met and often united. They were not held together by any special affinity based on Skin Color – Europe’s enemies inadvertently arranged meetings…both were exploited. Mr. Katz and I also agree that retelling our (American) Western History, Africans and Native Americans, separately and together, fought bravely for an America they knew was theirs too…ours. Perhaps the story of African Americans and Native Americans was trampled upon by their bitter European enemies. Sidney Poitier, Mario Van Peebles, and other great Black and Native American Actors, Producers, TV and Film got it right – American and European History Books get it right too.
Until next time…
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