PULLMAN — When discussing cowboys, many people are quick to imagine a John Wayne lookalike without realizing that most cowboys in the West were African-American.

Tom Shepherd, chairman of the Black History Month committee at the Pullman National Monument, wants to change those assumptions.

“I was brought up to know the Hollywood story more than the original story,” Shepherd said. “I grew up with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, The Riflemen and Bonanza, so this is a fascinating detour from what we’ve understood.” 

“Black Cowboys and the Wild West” will be discussed at a free presentation at 3 p.m. Sunday at The Pullman National Monument Visitor Center, 11141 S. Cottage Grove.

Art T. Burton, who will be giving the presentation, has spent more than twenty-years “reclaiming the heritage of African Americans in the American West.” He’s published three books on the topic: “Black, Red, and Deadly: Black and Indian Gun Fighters of the Indian Territories”; “Black, Buckskin, and Blue: African American Scouts and Soldiers on the Western Frontier”; and “Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves.”

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“Burton’s hobby is researching and writing about the black cowboys,” Shepherd said. “We thought it was important to honor African Americans in our neighborhood.”

Although there is no record that cowboys were ever in Pullman, this event is created to honor and allow community members to learn more about the individuals that paved the road for others.

“We’re hoping that people will become more educated or at least have a better understanding of the movement of people and the migrations that we’ve experienced in the United States,” Shepherd said.

The Sunday presentation is free and runs for two hours. Find out more here.