Let’s Go, Let’s Show, Let’s Rodeo: African American Involvement in Rodeo

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We examine the complicated and multi-dimensional roles that African American cowboys played in rodeo from its conception in the late nineteenth century. From rodeos beginnings, the visual representation of what rodeo was and is portrays a white sport; however, upon further inspection there are many unsung rodeo stars and heroes that have been left out of the narrative, specifically African American cowboys. (Paper presentation)


  • 1. This Aint My First Rodeo: Ethnic Minority Involvement in Rodeo
    Dr . Tracey Owens Patton
    Research co-author: Sally Schedlock, MA
    Presented at ShephardSymposium for
    Social Justice
    April 7, 2011

2. Goal
Our book-in-progress examines over one hundred years of rodeo and its tumultuous relationship with cowgirls and ethnic minorities.
3. Summary verview
Rodeos history is viewed as traditionally White: however, rodeo has many Ethnic Minority influences that have been overlooked
Rodeo has a history of covert and overt racism that is rarely acknowledged
4. In this presentation, we will discuss Chapter 7: the involvement of ethnic minority participants in rodeo from the inception of rodeo to present day.
Thus, the research question is:
RQ: What are the roles Ethnic Minority Cowboy/Cowgirls participate in rodeo past to present?
5. African American Rodeo History
Been involved in Agriculture since slavery
Active rodeo participants since 1800s
6. Bill Pickett
Bill Pickett, founder of modern steer wrestling in a signature move. (photo courtesy of BillPickett.com)
7. Jackson Sundown, George Fletcher, John Spain
Jackson Sundown at the Pendleton Roundup, n.d.(angelaswedberg.blogspot.com).
George Fletcher at the Pendleton Roundup, n.d.) ((www.historycooperative.org)
John Spain at the Pendleton Rodeo, n.d. (historycooperative.org).
8. Fred Whitfield
Like a lion poised to pounce, Whitfield sets up for a winning run at La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Rodeo in Tucson (Ehringer, 1999, p. 205).
9. Jessie Stahl
Photo courtesy of American Heritage Center, Laramie, Wyoming
10. American Indians Cowgirls and Cowboys

  • Research indicates with cattle herding, parades, sports gatherings, finery, and presence ofclowns, there has been substantial cultural borrowing for modern rodeo (Kirsch, Harris, Nolte (2000) p. 389).

11. American Indian involvement rodeo is still limited to exotic other i.e. rodeo Indian races, teepee shows, and Indian dances. 12. Perspective of rodeo is different: be one with animal vx. Domination of animals