Dom Flemons made his name playing old-time folk music as both a solo artist and a co-founder of the popular, contemporary black string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops. But lately he’s been thinking a lot about cowboys. A recent tune Flemons wrote concerns Bass Reeves, one of the first black Deputy U.S. Marshals west of the Mississippi River. Working as a federal peace officer in Indian Territory, Reeves is said to have arrested over 3,000 felons and shot and killed fourteen outlaws in self-defense. Reeves is also believed to be the inspiration for the classic TV western, “The Lone Ranger.”
“Black cowboys were one of the essential parts of the civilizing of the West,” Flemons explained. “Being a cowhand was one of the first independent jobs from slavery. The classic cowboy songs tend to have these great stories with them that are connected to black cowhands. They are not so much hidden, but like the black string band stuff, they have not been talked about in a way that is easy for people to understand in the context of American history or music.” Read more here.