AIN’T NO HOLDING ‘EM

Image via Beyoncé

From Beyoncé’s venture into country music with “Cowboy Carter” to Lil Nas X’s fusion of country and hip hop in his chart-topping hit “Old Town Road,” and Pharrell Williams’ cowboy-inspired fashion collection for Louis Vuitton: The image of African-American cowboys and the accompanying country life has been omnipresent lately. And while the label ‘cowboy core’ – as in other ‘core’ trends – has been thrown around already, it’s not as if black cowboys (and girls) haven’t been around before and isn’t here to stay.

If one pays close attention to the intro of Queen Bee’s “Texas Hold ‘Em” and its liner notes, a hint at the deep African-American roots of country awaits: The banjo intro is played by legendary musician Rhiannon Giddens, who has been emphasizing the genre’s black origins for decades, which is also palpable by her playing a pattern from the distinctly African-American genre of blues, whose repeated harmonies are not only the DNA of pop, jazz, and R’n’B – but also of country music.

“You know, people don’t know where they came from. They don’t know what people are doing in this country because they don’t know their history…if we don’t learn our history, [we’re] bound to repeat it.”

Larry Callies, The Black Cowboy Museum founder, to EBONY

Reminding people that, to quote EBONY, “cowboy culture is Black history, and Black history is American history”, The Black Cowboy Museum offers even deeper insights: Serving as a repository of artifacts, photographs, and oral histories, it offers visitors a glimpse into the lives and experiences of African-American cowboys throughout history. For those unable to travel to the museum in Rosenberg, Texas, Instagram pages like The Forgotten Cowboys further illustrate how deeply interwoven Black history and cowboy culture are to this day.

In come the Oklahoma Cowboys: The community-based group is not only dedicated to preserve the often overlooked history of Black Cowboys in Oklahoma, but also aims to bridge “the gap between urban youth and the world of equestrianism, providing them with access to this enriching experience (…) to develop valuable skills, cultivate a deep appreciation for nature, and foster a sense of unity within our community.” So the next generation is sitting firmly in the saddle already.

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