Black Rodeo in the Texas Gulf Coast Region: Charcoal in the Ashes provides an in depth sociocultural and historical analysis of the genesis and contemporary state of affairs regarding African American rodeo cowboys in southeast Texas, whose ancestors were instrumental in the development of the most celebrated livestock management industry in the world. The author painstakingly chronicles the origin of the Texas cattle industry from its Mexican roots to Austin’s Colony, better known as the George Plantation/Ranch, where African Americans were intimately involved in the livestock management industry since its inception. Although enslaved before, during, and after the Republic of Texas was established, they were early stakeholders in the expansion of the western frontier, and an indispensable source of labor that facilitated the burgeoning cattle industry. Yet, as the author maintains, American history wantonly trivialized, marginalized, and blatantly omitted their contributions. This book sheds light on these early cowboys and their descendants who have participated in America’s most prominent prole sport with little to no media exposure. The author dubbed them “Shadow Riders of the Subterranean Circuit,” and even though American sports are integrated African American rodeo cowboys may be metaphorically seen as bits of charcoal spread among ashes.
Demetrius W. Pearson is associate professor in the Sport and Fitness Administration Program at the University of Houston.
Chapter 1: Rodeo Roots and Etiological Aspects
Chapter 2: Land Acquisition in Austin’s Colony and Cattle Ranching
Chapter 3: African American Ancestral Involvement and Livestock Management
Chapter 4: The Mythical West: Cowboys, Cattle Drives and Westward Expansion
Chapter 5: The Emergence of the Black Rodeo Cowboy
Chapter 6: Shadow Riders of the Subterranean Circuit
Chapter 7: Black in the Saddle: The Best Bull Rider You Never Saw
Chapter 8: The New Millennium: Black Rodeo and New Jack Cowboys
Chapter 9: Reliving the Past via Contemporary Trail Riding
Demetrius W. Pearson's introspective articulation of the Black rodeo experience takes the reader on a historical and cultural journey to understand the roots of competition, tradition, and performative expression. The pages convey a cultural tradition with African, Spanish, and Mexican diasporic influences not solely on the sport of rodeo, but describe an influential reach on the ranching profession, American patriotism and service, education and social issues, and the transformative ancestral experiences of the Black cowboy.
Finally, there is a book that actually talks about us Black rodeo cowboys from the Texas Gulf Coast and the people who followed us over the years. No one has captured the spirit of what we did years ago and what is still happening in Black rodeos like Pearson. He literally went down the rode with us. Few have told the story as well as he has in this book. I am truly glad he entered our world and has written about what he saw and experienced.
In Black Rodeo in the Texas Gulf Coast Region, Demetrius Pearson provides us with a vital and authentic study of the too often unknown and unrecognized black cowboys/girls and other African American rodeo activists who became the prime participants in the Soul Circuit that emerged in Texas. Not only is Pearson’s work engaging reading, it is a well-researched look at a little-known slice of western and Texas history. Those interested in black history, in rodeo history, or in the American West will find this book significant, well-versed, and enjoyable for the scholar as well as the general reader.
As a meticulous scholar, Demetrius Pearson elicits a hidden gem in the history and presence of Black cowboys and girls in North American Rodeo, and more specifically, rodeo in Texas. Black Rodeo in the Texas Gulf Coast Region: Charcoal in the Ashes is a necessity and a viable contribution to the legacy of Blacks who competed, endured, and excelled in a sport where they were originators and creators, despite being isolated and alienated. Pearson exposes readers to the evolution and interworking of Black Rodeo Cowboys and their current contributions to rodeo and community engagement activities. This volume is also a major contribution to understanding the Black lived experiences in a non-traditional sporting practice, where we are accustomed of seeing Black athletes dominate. I highly recommend this book as a must read for sport enthusiast, in general, and rodeo fans, specifically.
Pearson’s eloquent book illustrates some of the long and storied history of Black cowboys that would interest any admirer of sports and Black culture. From the 'shadow riders' to the 'soul circuit', Pearson’s keen work shows the economic and cultural significance of Black cowboys and rodeos by covering their impact on Black communities and struggles with institutional racism. While Blacks are often left out of the history of the rodeo, this book does a fantastic job bringing them to the forefront and highlighting their lived experiences.
As a young man who grew up amongst Black Rodeo and Trail Riding cowboys, I find the book’s oral recordings to be historically accurate and bravely articulated. Its passages were drawn undoubtedly from ones deeply immersed in Black western culture. The book elicits emotions ranging from excitement to despair, hope, and disenfranchisement. It also helped me recognize what my predecessors instilled in me: a commitment to educate through scholarship, community service, and partnerships with American youth who will perpetuate our western heritage.
Perason's research has illuminated the lost history of the Black cowboy in the historic rodeo arenas of Texas. This is an important book that showcases many of the forgotten heroes of rodeo that need to be known and celebrated. Pearson's research takes a look at blacks as ranchers, cowboys, and rodeo athletes in the area of Texas where the cowboy was invented, on the Texas Gulf Region. This book is long overdue and it is wonderful that we now can read and be informed of this history that has been long neglected by researchers of the western frontier. I salute Pearson on his exemplary research and hope he continues to shine a light on the development of the black cowboy on the range and rodeo arena in the future.