Historians agree that just after the Civil War, one in four cowboys were African American. Yet this population was drastically underrepresented in popular accounts, and it is still. The “cowboy” identity retains a strong presence in many Black communities.
Based in the rural flatlands of the Mississippi Delta and the rolling hills that border it, this project sheds light on an overlooked community of horse riders—one that resists historical and contemporary stereotypes.
The project began in January, 2017 when I attended a Black heritage rodeo in Greenville, Mississippi. The body of work reveals how deeply these traditions run in the remote region. Opposed to the working cowboys of the “Wild West,” these riders congregate at horse shows, trail rides, small rodeos, and nightclubs across the Delta.
The work aims to press against old archetypes while uplifting and diversifying this narrative, to ask: Who defines the cowboy and cowgirl image?