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Fort Bend County Museum Collection - Black Cowboys at the George Ranch Historical Park (1994)

Fort Bend County Museum Association

Sound | 1994

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  •  Ranch employees worked together with German POWs, who mainly worked in the hay fields 
  •  Juneteenth celebrations 
  •  Riding horses on the ranch 
  •  A cowboy tells how he never rode with a saddle growing up, and if they saw a horse running around they would go catch it and ride it! 
  •  Roping cattle 
  •  Applying rodeo clown makeup 
 
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Most likely shot for a documentary, this raw footage features interviews with African-American cowboys about their experiences working at the George Ranch Historical Park. In between segments, the men showcase their cattle roping and horseback riding skills. Later, a cowboy applies rodeo clown makeup and describes his process for choosing a design, his character, and how he keeps a crowd engaged. Black cowboys have played an essential role in Fort Bend County ranching operations for more than 100 years. After the Civil War, many former slaves went to work at the ranch, leaving behind a rich legacy of cowboy heritage that is unique to this part of the state. After the Civil War, being a cowboy was one of the few jobs open to men of color. Men skilled in herding cattle were in great demand when ranchers began selling their livestock to the North, and the lack of railroads meant that big herds of cattle had to be moved to points in Kansas, Colorado, and Missouri along trails like the Chisholm. During and after slavery, over 90 percent of the George Ranch’s cowboys were African American. Now, the Ranch is hosting the George Ranch Rodeo to honor the overlooked black cowboy legacy in Texas. The Black Cowboy Museum in Rosenberg, Texas, also commemorates the rich history of these men and their contributions to cowboy culture in Texas.