John Ravage, a former UW journalism professor, researched the history of many different aspects of the West, including, African American cowboys.
Take, for example, Isom Dart, a former slave from the South turned outlaw in the North.
Dart lived in Wyoming. He was notorious for never harming anyone and had a knack for livestock thievery.
As a slave, he was a cook and stole most of the livestock he used. In the West, he was called “the Gentle Outlaw.”
Another former slave, Robert Anderson, also adapted to the Western lifestyle his own way.
Anderson ran away at 21, joined the Union Army, worked a number of odd jobs, and saved enough money to acquire a homestead in Nebraska.
Anderson wanted to help the U.S. create its own forest land in the Midwest but thought that the goal was too lofty.
Anderson became a successful rancher and husband in the West.
For more stories on African American Cowboys, come comb through the John Ravage collection at UW’s American Heritage Center.