Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The First African American Cowboy Movie Star

Bill Pickett

William M. “Bill” Pickett was the most famous African American rodeo performer of all time, and the first black cowboy movie star.  In 1905 he joined the Miller Brother’s 101 Range Wild West Show.  Pickett invented “bulldogging”, now called steer wrestling.  Charging in on his horse, Pickett came up alongside a long horn steer and dropped down on the steer’s head, twisting its head toward the sky.

In 1922, Pickett starred in the silent movie The Bulldogger, a western featuring an all African American cast.  Unfortunately, only a few fragments of the original film still exist.

Pickett was inducted into the national Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1972.  In 1993, the United States Post Office issued a stamp in his honor, as one of the “Legends of the West.”

Steer Wrestling

Since his death along the bluffs overlooking the Little Bighorn River, in Montana, on June 25, 1876, over five hundred books have been written about the life and career of George Armstrong Custer. Views of Custer have changed over succeeding generations. Custer has been portrayed as a callous egotist, a bungling egomaniac, a genocidal war criminal, and the puppet of faceless forces. For almost one hundred and fifty years, Custer has been a Rorschach test of American social and personal values. Whatever else George Armstrong Custer may or may not have been, even in the twenty-first century, he remains the great lightning rod of American history. This book presents portraits of Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn as they have appeared in print over successive decades and in the process demonstrates the evolution of American values and priorities.

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