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A History Of Black Cowboys And The Myth That The West Was White

Priscilla Frank

Huffington Post

2017, JAN 24

An exhibition on view at The Studio Museum in Harlem hopes to retire the persistent myth equating cowboys with whiteness.

An ongoing photography exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem celebrates the legacy of the “Black Cowboy” while chronicling the unlikely places around the country where cowboy culture thrives today. Through their photographs, artists like Brad Trent, Deanna Lawson and Ron Tarver work to retire the persistent myth that equates cowboys with whiteness.

Most people remain unaware of the black cowboy’s storied, and fundamentally patriotic, past. “When I moved to the East Coast, I was amazed that people had never heard of or didn’t know there were black cowboys,” photographer Ron Tarver said in an interview with The Duncan Banner. “It was a story I wanted to tell for a long time.”

In 2013 Tarver set out to document black cowboy culture, in part as a tribute to his grandfather, a cowboy in Oklahoma in the 1940s. “He worked on a ranch and drove cattle from near Braggs to Catoosa.”

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