While the quintessential Old West “cowboy” is White in most imaginations, in fact there were Black pioneers in the west during the wild days (usually dated mid-1800s till the end of the century). According to wikipedia, thousands of Black men and women lived in mostly segregated communities in the West, but participated in all parts of Western society. They were traders, gold miners, soldiers, cowboys and farm hands, bartenders, cooks, and, of course, outlaws. I enjoy how these photographs color American history:
Identity unknown, around 1865, Kansas (source):
Nona Marshall, late 1800s, Arizona territory (source):
Black cowboys (1890-1920):Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.