Archives On The Air 51: African Americans In The West—John Ravage Papers

Aug 27, 2018

Newspaper article detailing the history of Isom Dart's noteriety as a livestock thief, 1977. Box 2, John Ravage Papers.
Credit American Heritage Center

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.

Newspaper clipping with a photograph and brief description of Isom Dart, the gentle outlaw, Undated. Box 2, John Ravage Papers.
Credit American Heritage Center

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.