Jesse Stahl, a Black cowboy legend
Jesse Stahl (riding backwards)
*The birth of Jesse Stahl in 1879 is celebrated on this date. He was an African American cowboy and rodeo star.
From Tennessee, Stahl, an inductee into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, was a major saddle bronco rider. Although exceptionally talented, Stahl who had a brother Ambrose seldom placed higher than third at the major rodeos mainly because he was Black. At one rodeo where he'd clearly bested his competitors, Stahl was awarded second place. Perhaps to mock the judges, he rode a second bronco while facing backward. A spectacular ride by black Stahl, on a previously un-ridden bucking horse called "Glass Eye" was one of the highlights of the show.
He repeated his triumph by riding another notorious bucker, "Tar Baby," backwards with a suitcase in his hand. Stahl retired in 1929 and was probably the most famous black cowboy of all time. Another black cowboy, Ty Stokes, and Jesse Stahl rode a bucking horse seated back to back it was what was called "a suicide ride." The total attendance in 1912 was 4,000.
Some rodeo enthusiast consider Jesse Stahl the greatest of all bronco riders; neither is surprising when one considers that approximately five thousand black cowboys rode the cattle trails in the 19th century.
The Black West by William Loren Katz.
A Touchtone Book, published by Simon & Shuster Inc.
Copyright 1987, 1996 by Ethrac Publications, Inc.
Today in American History