DENVER, Colo. (AP) — At the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo, retired rodeo champ Abe Morris needs only a nod of his black cowboy hat and his broad smile to be welcomed into the chute area where professional bull riders gather before their rides.

"If I put on this cowboy hat and go down to the grocery store in my neighborhood, people would look at me like I'm joking," said the rodeo announcer, author and one of the rare African-American professional rodeo cowboys of his era — 1977 to 1994.

 

Morris said he thought back then that by now, African-Americans would fill rodeo lineups as black fans were exposed to the sport the way he, his cousins and his friends had been while growing up in New Jersey.

They scrambled to ride bulls and broncs in the weekly rodeo near their homes, he said, the same way many in their generation waited turns to shoot hoops on inner-city playgrounds.

But of the 47 riders during the Jan. 12 stock-show rodeo, only Jamon Turner of Denver is black.

When the West was won, African-Americans were on the front lines, scholars say. One of every three cowhands was African-American, according to Denver's Black American West Museum.

Whole Western towns were populated by African-Americans.

The ghost town of Dearfield was famous not just as an African-American community but also as the place where dryland farming was introduced to the state. The practice has produced millionaires across the Plains ever since.

Today, there is a disconnect between blacks and their rural past, said Reiland Rabaka, an associate professor of Africana studies at the University of Colorado and a research fellow for the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race in America.

Rabaka is writing a chapter called "Beyond the Black Cowboy" for an educational volume on Colorado's ethnic cultures to be published this year.

Since the days of the black cowboys, African-Americans have forged enduring legacies in politics and public service, music and theater, education, science and medicine, he said.

"Most people couldn't tell you much of anything about African-American history before the civil-rights movement," Rabaka said.

Five years ago, the National Western made an effort to change that.

Each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, former music producer Lu Vason brings the top black cowboys in the world to Denver for the Martin Luther King Jr. African-American Heritage Rodeo of Champions.

Nearly 20,000 metro-area schoolkids attend the stock show on school tours each year.

Stock-show board member Khadija Haynes, co-founder of the Denver Urban Garden program, arranges many of those tours for city children.

"Not a lot of kids in the city really know what their history is," Haynes said. "African-Americans weren't just black cowboys; they were farmers, and they built towns. It's important that kids know the history of this state, the history of this city."

Jamey Ford, 29, first came to the stock show on a school tour when he was 12, he said this week as he herded his two toddlers through the stables.

"You should let your kids experience everything and (let them) choose their own way," he said.

Ford, who is black, grew up in east Aurora and dreams of someday "retiring with a bunch of cows in the country."

That's not typical, Rabaka said.

Unfortunately, black culture trends away from its rural roots because of its association with slavery, he said. Quoting civil-rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois, Rabaka said, "There's no one way to be an African-American."

"The black cowboy is a rich part of who African-Americans are," Rabaka said. "We should embrace that, and we should be proud of that."

Cowboy Abe Morris agrees. He's proud of his race, proud of his background in rodeo and proud that his 10-year-old son, Justin, wears one of his rodeo championship buckles.

"He's been on a bull," Morris said, grinning. "If he wants to ride, that'll be his decision."

___

 
 BLACK by NATURE, PROUD by CHOICE.
Original Post
Well, I would say just because its a not a dominant cultural activity doesn't mean that we've forgotten about our rural roots. There are Black rodeos still out in the midwest, OK & AR. I have a cousin who is a professional rodeo-er (is that a word LOL) he's all of about 28. He grew up riding horses and bull riding. My great uncles used to ride bulls out on my great grandparents farm. What is funny about that is because they were so close in age to my mom and her older sisters sometimes, they would be out there too sitting on the cows...  Of course that was like a one time thing! LOL 
When I was a kid and even after I had my kids and was living in Texas sometimes the Rodeo would come through in Mississippi on our visits. We went and they were all black this was in the late 1980's and through the 2000's. I like them.
This is..., or was...an organization in New York City that called itself 'SHODEO'.

The organization is/was located in Long Island, and worked extensively with the New York City public schools.

The organization was owned, and operated by an African American guy who sported a huge handle-bar moustach, wore a huge (maybe 12-gallon) hat, and rode a magnificent palamino.

'SHODEO' presented a full range of rodeo events.

We booked the organization in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the summer of 1993,

It was magnificent!!!!!

The local newspaper sent a reporter.

No television stations responded to our news release, and advertising.

The newspaper photographer took pictures of many of the 16 troupe members.

Only two of the members were European.

Guess which members were pictured in the newspaper...on rearing horses.

Welcome to Northeast Pennsylvania.

PEACE

Jim Chester
Man....this takes me back to those days that my father was so proud of anything "CowBoy"....lol. I remember his huge hats, his big boots and the countless pictures of all "rodeo" to his pictures of the Black Spanish bull fighters. Then I remember our days on the farm and am struck to call my grandmother right now....lol.

"Wisdom Is A Woman Appreciating History!"

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