One of the most recent and fascinating Black History memoirs published in 2012 tells the little-known six-month adventure of an African-American cowboy who rode horseback from Manhattan to California.
That gripping journey by Miles Dean, filled with stops to recognize sites that were milestones in African-American culture, is shared in detail by author Lisa K. Winkler in On The Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America (ISBN 978-1468123920, 2012, Create Space, 148 pages, $12.95 available on Amazon).
Miles Dean rode his horse more than 5,000 miles across the country to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history. A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America will resonate with horse people, armchair travelers, educators, parents and young people who are connected with the African-American community.
Winkler met Miles Dean while teaching inner city youth in Newark and became so enthralled by his account of riding horseback across America that she agreed to write the book. Shortly after meeting Miles Dean, Winkler wrote an article on black jockeys for the Smithsonian Institute and has since interviewed several black history scholars.
Among the little known jewels of black history included in A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America are these accounts:
- African-Americans who served as US marshals, upholding the law protecting settlers by chasing bank robbers, cattle thieves and other bandits.
- Black cowboys who, for the first half of the 20th century, were barred from competing against white cowboys in the prize events at rodeos and were banned from appearing in motion pictures, both ways in which cowboys supplemented their ranch wages.
- Philadelphia’s Washington Square, once called “Congo Square,” was the site of several slave auctions that separated Africans from loved ones, sending them into servitude.
- As the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800 Philadelphia hosted George Washington’s presidency. A known slaveholder, Washington brought his slaves to Philadelphia, circumventing the law that granted slaves freedom after a six-month residency by moving them back to Virginia.
Molefi Kete Asante, author of 100 Greatest African Americans, had this to say about Winkler’s book: “Lisa Winkler has written an inspiring book; she has engaged us at the level of concrete contributions of African Americans to the history of the United States. I salute this work and encourage everyone to read this powerful book.”