Black Cowboys

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Zaron Burnett’s dad didn’t want slavery to be his son’s only image of Black people in American history. So every night, he filled Zaron’s dreams with these incredible stories of Black cowboys. Despite what Hollywood taught us, one-in-four cowboys were Black. Their stories tell a bigger, braver, more honest history of America. 

Episode Date
Chapter 7: Bill Pickett
Bill Pickett, the greatest showman of Wild West. A Black cowboy born free, in 1870, in Travis County, Texas. He invented a whole rodeo sport, became an icon of toughness, and thrilled crowds across North America. But when his promoters set him up to face a raging bull in Mexico City, the ensuing fight over cultural supremacy has dangerous consequences. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Apr 15, 2021
Chapter 6: Stagecoach Mary
Stagecoach Mary was a woman on her own in the world, who did most of her hard living after the age of 40. She lived with nuns in the daytime, drank whiskey with men in saloons at night. She was the first black woman to drive a wagon for the US postal service. Tough as she was, she was also known for the verdant lushness of her well-tended gardens.  Mary was a woman of dualities, and yet, also limitless complexities. Over time, her legend has outshined the facts of her life. This is the life and legend of Mary Fields, the toughest woman to ever call the west her home. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Apr 01, 2021
Chapter 5: Chief John Horse
Long before the divisive question of slavery was finally settled in the Civil War, there were the Seminole Wars — three of them —- and they were the largest sustained revolt of formerly enslaved people and their Indigenous allies.  On the one side there was Andrew Jackson; on the other was a Black Seminole, Chief John Horse. By the end of his long life, he would come to be called the Moses of the Seminoles. He would fight for and against the US government, successfully winning his freedom and land for his people. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Mar 25, 2021
Chapter 4: The First Black Cowboy, Esteban the Negro
The story of Black cowboys begins not on horseback riding the high plains, but with horses tied up on Spanish ships riding the high seas. Meet Esteban the Negro. Or Esteban the Moor. The Spanish called him Estevanico. Before his voyage and his adventures in North America are over, he will transform from a slave into a god.  Learn more about your ad-choices at
Mar 11, 2021
Chapter 3: The Lawman Bass Reeves
Bass Reeves was the most lethal lawman in the wild west. Over his 32-year career Reeves arrested more than 3,000 alleged criminals, and killed more than a dozen of them. But the image of a formerly enslaved Black man riding around on horseback with a license to kill tended to make white people uncomfortable. Hear how Bass Reeves commitment to justice overcame racism, and even his own family bonds. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Mar 04, 2021
Chapter 2: The Outlaw Cherokee Bill
The most famous Black outlaw from the wild west era was a Cherokee Freedmen, the mixed son of a Buffalo soldier and Cherokee mother. His name was Crawford Goldsby. But both the New York Times and his own mother called him: Cherokee Bill. This episode explores the ideas of law, order and justice at a time when there was little of any of those for Black Americans. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Feb 25, 2021
Chapter 1: Nat Love, the toughest black cowboy.
In this episode we meet Nat Love, the toughest Black Cowboy. But Nat Love’s life was more than just wild horses and gunfights. This is the story of an enslaved man who found freedom in the West. A man who roamed America, just like they did in the westerns. He did it for real. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Feb 18, 2021
Introducing: Black Cowboys
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Feb 08, 2021