It never ceases to amaze how little need there’d be for Black History had American History been accurately told to begin with. But, just like every else outside slavery, positive aspects of historic Black life consistently are obscured. Including the truth about the legendary Old Wild West. The daring exploits of desperadoes like Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickock and the rest of them get romanticized to the point of hero worship, thanks mainly to Hollywood’s shoot ’em up cowboy movies. But independent films like Richard C. Kahn’s The Bronze Buckaroo are lost and we have Django Unchained simply because a White director made it.
So, Sharon Carpenter’s excellent book Western Cowboy Poetry: An African American Perspective (iUniverse, $11.95) is a godsend, paying due tribute to the cowboys and cowgals who kicked up their own share of trail dust way back when. Example given, a quote from “Isom Dart”, which goes, “Let me tell you the story/Of ol’ Isom Dart/How he broke my will and my soul/And also my heart/He was as elusive as them horses/He was always chasin’/You think you landed him/Then you find — time, it was a wastin’…”. Reached by e-mail Carpenter (SC) gave an interview about her book.
MSR: Why is it significant to commemorate these figures from the Old West?
SC: Although Abraham Lincoln authorized the Homestead Act that was designed to enable attainment of landownership in the West, it was a struggle for African Americans in the southern United States…to transition to economic success. Overall, they experienced…horrific challenges. Nonetheless, they…improved [their] quality of life. Thus it is intriguing to enable a perspective…on…the cowboy lifestyle, etc.
MSR: What moved you put the book together?
SC: Feedback from numerous listeners throughout the years at a variety of poetry gatherings that enjoyed my poetry performance, inquired whether I had poetry or audio books for them to attain. Input from the founder of Douglas County’s Poetry Writers Group: Joel Hayes, and also the author and poetic performer: Charlie Holloway, invited me on several occasions to leverage talent as a poetry writer and performer.
MSR: Anything else?
SC: Prior to being requested by Joel Hayes and Charlie Holloway, the coordinators of the Annual Georgia Cowboy Gatherings, to deliver poetry recitals, I conducted research about African American cowboy experiences and learned about what occurred during the pre- and post-Civil War era. Ultimately the knowledge enhanced my imagination in creation of poems. Although I was highly engaged as Director, Corporate Human Resources globally, upon relocation to Wisconsin, I continued poetry writing throughout the years.
MSR: What’s next?
SC: Promotion of the cowboy poetry now created in an audio book for individuals that indicated enjoyment of listening to the poetry and requested hearing it more frequently. Generate ongoing poetry performance and delivery via poems listed in Section One: The Journey and Contributions — A Historic Perspective; Section Two: Workin’ It — Cowboy Hustlin’ and Rustlin’, Section Three: Romancin’— Cowboy Love Stories; and Section Four: Our Values — A Cowboy Life Perspective. To emphasize history and outcome that has resulted in phenomenal results of some African Americans during the historic phase of the struggle to live free, to be treated as viable citizens, to retain family relationships, to improve the quality of life for family and for others.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses at P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.