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Black History Month: Crazy Faith Riders of New Jersey works to preserve the history of Black cowboys

What started out as a group of friends riding together has become a mission to preserve the history of Black cowboys, which also includes teaching the origins of the word cowboy.

Naomi Yané

Feb 26, 2024, 1:58 PM

Updated 140 days ago

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Historians estimate that in the 1800s, African American cowboys in Texas made up 25% of the population. A New Jersey-based horse-riding club is working to keep the rich history and contributions of Black cowboys alive.
“When our Lord and savior comes back, he’s going to come back on a horse. He left on a donkey and when he comes back, he’s going to be riding a horse,” says Richard Anderson.
Anderson is one of the founding members of the Crazy Faith Riders of New Jersey, a faith-based trail-riding club. They start every ride in prayer.
What started out as a group of friends riding together has become a mission to preserve the history of Black cowboys, which also includes teaching the origins of the word cowboy.
“Cowboy initially carried a negative connotation. The cowboy was the person, the African American, the slave who was responsible for taking care of the cows,” says Anderson.
According to the Journal of African American History, white ranchers were called cowhands. In the Jim Crow South, the word “boy” was used toward adult Black men to degrade and demean them.
“Even though Blacks were 25% of the cowboys in the 1700-1800s, we weren’t treated equal, but we found that we had skill sets that really helped us to stick out,” says Marvin Hooks, the organization’s parliamentarian.
Today, the organization stands on that history and all of the contributions of Black cowboys who are often left out of history books and make up a very small number in equestrian sports. Group member Chelsea Williams has been riding horses since she was 13.
“It was hard to find a group that you could fit in and feel like you belong. A lot of groups are mostly white based you can never find people of color and joining this group I’ve never felt like I belonged more than I did here,” Williams says.
Crazy Faith Riders of New Jersey also does outreach in urban communities to introduce children of color particularly, to cowboy life and equestrian sports. The group now has some 20 members since its founding in 2006 with many of the riders owning their own horses and farms.
“When you get on a horse today and they call you a cowboy, it’s not really negative – it is something that you can be very proud of because we’re connected to a wonderful history,” says Hooks.


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