In honor of Black History month this February, we wanted to look more deeply into the often untold history of Black cowboys and their important role

What We’re Reading – February 2023

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In honor of Black History Month this February, we wanted to look more deeply into the often untold history of Black cowboys and their important role in the American West. And we couldn’t do that without including them within the context of Isabel Wilkerson’s account of the Great Migration. So, in celebration of the Black cowboys of American history, present, and future, we’re pleased to share these amazing stories as well as a poem from Richard Wright’s powerful memoir with you.

The Lesser-Known History of African-American Cowboys by Katie Nodjimbadem (Smithsonian Magazine, 2017) – One in four cowboys was Black. So why aren’t they more represented in popular culture.

Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as “‘Deadwood Dick by Nat Love – An autobiography of one man’s transformation from being born into enslavement to his experience as a range rider in the wild (and we do mean WILD) west. 

Black Cowboys in the American West: On the Ranch, On the Stage, Behind the Badge by Bruce Glasrud and Michael Searles – Black cowhands remain an integral part of life in the West. These descendants of African Americans ventured west and helped settle and establish communities. Like all ranch hands and riders, African American cowboys lived hard, dangerous lives. But Black drovers were expected to do the roughest, most dangerous work—and to do it without complaint. They faced discrimination out west, albeit less than in the South, which many had left in search of autonomy and freedom. 

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson – With more than 15 years of research and interviews, this book covers the migration of Black citizens from 1915-1970. Wilkerson focuses on three individuals migrating from different regions of the south at different times and shares their stories and the impact of their lives.

I was leaving the South

to fling myself into the unknown…

I was taking a part of the South

to transplant in alien soil,

to see if it could grow differently,

if it could drink of new and cool rains,

bend in strange winds,

respond to the warmth of other suns

and, perhaps, to bloom.

Richard Wright

Other things we’re reading:

Op-ed: Some Regenerative Farms Are Weathering California’s Unprecedented Rainfall | Civil Eats

Read about how regenerative organic farming, which prioritizes soil health, is critical to California’s agricultural future as the region is affected by a historic succession of winter storms, power outages, flooding, and mudslides.

Mark Biaggi – Down to Earth Podcast

Ranch Manager Mark Biaggi discusses healthy soils’ water-holding capacity, “safe to fail,” and many other aspects of our approach to regenerative agriculture at TomKat Ranch. 

#12: Wendy Millet – Ranchlands Podcast

In this discussion, Ed and Wendy covered a range of topics including the history of TomKat ranch and its current agricultural initiatives, the ranch’s commitment to science-based data collection and analysis, what Wendy looks for in potential team members, and a few exciting projects that are in the ranch’s near future.