Black Heritage Riders -The Journey of A Modern African American Pioneer
Vol. II

Manhattan, New York- Los Angeles, California,   Tuesday, April 1, 2008

No. 848
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Miles Dean- Short Bio

New York To California Trail Rider
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Mr. Dean Commutes from New Jersey


Texas Commentary

companion video - Historian Rosetta Leid

companion photos


I’m certain you’re wondering what the Moorish conquest of Spain has to do with African American contributions in Texas, an area of land far removed from Africa and Spain.  Well, I think connecting dots always helps to give a certain perspective to any inquiry.  Many are not aware that early in the eighth century Moorish soldiers crossed over from Africa to the Iberian Peninsula.  The man chosen to lead them was General Tarik ibn Ziyad.  In August 711, Tarik won paramount victory over the opposing European army.  Within a month's time, General Tarik ibn Ziyad had effectively terminated European dominance of the Iberian Peninsula. The Moors were given the task of subduing the northwest of Spain and with vigor and speed they set about their mission.  Within three months they had swept the entire territory north of the Ebro River as far as the Pyrenees Mountains and annexed the turbulent Basque country.  These Moors, as the early writers chronicled, were "black or dark people, some being very black."  After the invasion of 711 came other waves of Moors even darker.   The Moors ruled the Iberian Peninsula for over 700 years before rulers were driven out in the mid 1400’s.
African people remained in Spain.  These first Africans in Spain were known as ladinos, or hispanicized Africans, and were soldiers, servants, settlers, and slaves.  From Spain, they began to arrive in the Americas (South, Central, and North) as early as the 15th century, many as auxiliaries to the Spanish and Portuguese explorers. As Matthew Restall states, “From the very onset of Spanish activity in the Americas, Africans were present both as voluntary expeditionaries and as involuntary colonists” (Restall 2000:172).  Esteban was perhaps the most notable African male to aid in the exploration of North America.
Esteban, also known as Estevan, Esteven, Estebanico the Black Man, Stephen the Black, and the “Black Mexican,” was born in Azamar, Morocco. He was the first African in Texas and what would become the Western United States.  Esteban’s journey and others like it encouraged further exploration of the West by the Spanish.  The states of Texas, New Mexico and California each supported Afro-Hispanic American communities. Texas became “the principle area of settlement and a political and cultural frontier” for fugitive slaves and free Blacks (Taylor 1998:37).
In 1821 Anglo settlers arrived in Texas and became the first English-speaking Mexican citizens in the territory. Led by Stephen F. Austin, they arrived in San Felipe de Austin, Texas, to take advantage of the vast expanse of cattle, free for the taking.  However before the Anglo settlers vaqueros first roamed the plains of Texas and New Mexico working cattle the most efficient way, from horseback.  It was something the vaqueros had been doing for 223 years, since 1598.  "Vaquero is a transliteration of the words 'cow' and 'man.'  
One out of every three cowboys in the late 1800's was the Mexican vaquero, says Kendall Nelson, a photographer from Idaho in his book, Gathering Remnants: A Tribute to the Working Cowboy, "All of the skills, traditions, and ways of working with cattle are very much rooted in the Mexican vaquero," Nelson told National Geographic News. "If you are a cowboy in the U.S. today, you have developed what you know from the vaquero." (Further inquiry should reveal the numbers of Black skinned Mexican vaqueros).
African American cowboys have been part of Texas history since the early 1800’s, when they first worked on ranches throughout the state. A good many of the first black cowboys were born into slavery but later found a better life on the open range, where they experienced less open discrimination than in the city. After the Civil War many were employed to tame the free roaming horses and for other tasks, but few of them became ranch foremen or managers. Some African American cowboys took up careers as rodeo performers or were hired as federal peace officers in Indian Territory. Others ultimately owned their own farms and ranches, while a few who followed the lure of the Wild West became gunfighters and outlaws.  The names below are limited to just a few.
Bose Ikard, born a slave in Mississippi in 1843, was a top hand and drover for rancher Charles Goodnight and became one of the most famous African American frontiersmen and trail drivers in Texas.  Bose Ikard died in Austin, Texas in 1929.  

texas1Daniel Webster “80 John” Wallace was born in September of 1860 in Victoria County, Texas.  He worked ranches in Texas and Mexico until he finally purchased over two sections (over 2 sq. miles) of land in 1885 near Colorado City, Texas. 80 John died in 1939 believing that respect was the one thing that made men equal. 



Matthew 'Bones' HooksMatthew “Bones” Hooks was born in Dalhart, Texas in 1867 and was credited with being the first African American cowboy in the Texas Panhandle and who later purchased land for the resettlement of African Americans into the Panhandle area.            
William (Bill) Pickett (1870?-1932) was a  rodeo cowboy born at the Jenks-Branch community on the Travis county line, Texas and made his name as one of the most outstanding Wild West rodeo performers in the country and is credited with originating the modern event known as bulldogging.
A Modern African American Pioneer (AMAAP) ride from coast to coast embraces the African American relationship with the horse that dates back to Moors of North Africa, the 100,000 horsemen of West Africa, the chariot racers of Ancient Egypt (KMT), and the present day African American back yard, farm and ranch owners of horses across the United States.  The legacy continues…It’s in the DNA.
This Texas commentary is dedicated to the memory of Howard Beauchamp, “an African American Texas cowboy” and inspiration, who in rode his horse  from Texas to New Jersey.
For further reading on African Americans in the West:
 Arthur T. Burton, Black, Red, and Deadly: Gunfighters of the Indian Territory, 1870-1907 (Austin: Eakin Press, 1991). Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones, Negro Cowboys (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1965). Jack Lowry, "The Forgotten Cowboys," Texas Highways, May 1991. Wendy Watriss and Fred Baldwin, "Soul in the Saddle," Houston City, February 1981, Quintard Taylor, In Search of he Racial Frontier; African Americans in the American West 1528-1990.
Additional reading on the African Presence in Ancient America: Ivan Van Sertimer; They Came Before Columbus (Random House Press, 1976; and Ivan Van Sertimer, The Moors
Images go a long way in helping to hinder or promote self respect, self esteem, and self empowerment and the truth will set us all free.