Black Cowboys. Upwards to 1/4 of the cowboys on cattle drives or working for ranches in the 1800's were black Americans. Here are a few ........though Google images are prolific with others.
One of the most famous western black cowboys -- because he wrote his memoirs -- was Nat Love. Born a slave in Tennessee in 1854, Love headed west at the age of 14 to seek adventure. He found it as a cowboy working for large cattle operations in Texas and Arizona. Love drove cattle and horses all over the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains and even down into Mexico. His autobiography recalls many trail drives to Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota that took him through such states as New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah. In addition, he mentions many exciting experiences he lived through on the cattle frontier of the late-nineteenth century. He recounts being captured by Indians, surviving storms and Indian attacks, participating in and witnessing gunfights, and meeting many famous western characters like Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill Cody, Jesse James, and Kit Carson. Written with an air of braggadocio, Love's story is, in places, of questionable veracity. Nevertheless, it is a charming first-hand account of the life of one cowboy that emphasizes the necessity of cooperation and camaraderie in the performance of work on the trails, ranges, and ranches of the cattle kingdom. In 1890 Love, who had married the year before, quit the cowboy business, moved to Colorado, and became a Pullman porter on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. He later worked as a bank guard before his death in 1921 in Los Angeles, California.
Another early-day black cowboy was Bose Ikard. He was born a slave in Mississippi in 1847 and grew up in Texas. After the Civil War, he worked with Charles Goodnight on several cattle drives on the trail Goodnight and Oliver Loving carved from Texas through New Mexico and Colorado to Wyoming and Montana. He was one of Goodnight's most valuable employees for years, often being entrusted to carry the large sums of money the cattle baron collected at the end of the trail.
Not all black cowboys, however, were productive citizens; some were on the wrong side of the law. One such outlaw was Isom Dart whose original name was Ned Huddleston. Born a slave in Arkansas in 1849, he went west after the Civil War. In 1875, Dart was one of a coterie of five thieves rustling cattle and horses in southeastern Wyoming. A rancher whose horses had been stolen by the gang gathered some of his cowboys together and pursued the culprits. In the ensuing shootout, only Huddleston survived. He changed his name to "Isom Dart" and relocated to Nevada. In the mid-1880s, however, he was once again rustling in Wyoming. This time he operated out of Brown's Hole (or Brown's Park) in the southwestern part of the territory, near the Colorado and Utah borders. One author has described this rugged region of mountains, canyons, caves, and arroyos as "one vast maze of hideouts made to order for law-breakers." Eventually, Dart bought a ranch and tried to settle into a life of legitimate work. Inevitably, however, his past caught up with him. In 1900 he was shot to death by famed bounty hunter Tom Horn who apparently had a contract to murder Dart issued by ranchers whose livestock had been stolen. 3