Founded by Larry Callies, The Black Cowboy Museum is preserving the legacy of America’s Black Cowboy. Step into the boots of the likes of Bass Reeves, Nat Love, and Bill Pickett. Meet the important African American cowboys who shaped the history of the West as well as the ones who will shape its future. In reality, formerly enslaved and free African Americans accounted for every one in four cowboys back in the day. “No phase of our national heritage has been portrayed…as more typically American than the old West,” writes William Loren Katz in his book The Black West: A Documentary and Pictorial History of the African American Role in the Westward Expansion of the United States.
Callies says “white cowboys weren’t called cowboys at first. They were called cowhands and cow punchers, because the word ‘boy’ meant ‘servant.’” Ranches had a Black male “yard boy” who labored in the fields, a “house boy” for inside work, and the Black men who tended the cows were termed “cowboys”—which meant that white men didn’t want to be called by the term. “So if you called a white man a cowboy, he’d say, ‘I’m not your boy.’” Remembering and honoring these cowboys of color is Callies’ mission. He comes from a long line of cowboys—grandfather, father, and uncles—and their tales of long-ago and modern-day Black cowboys spurred him to start his own career in rodeos and country-western music. A vocal disorder ended his singing profession, leaving him more time to devote to roping, and in 2017, to open his museum.