HomeUS News updateMeet the woman helping preserve the legacy of Black cowboys and cowgirls

Meet the woman helping preserve the legacy of Black cowboys and cowgirls

While black cowboys and cowgirls were essential to the western frontier, they were rarely featured in classic western films. Caitlin Gooch, a 30-year-old North Carolina native, has dedicated her life to teaching black kids about this overlooked kinship, both through books and fun horse activities.

Caring for horses is something Gooch has always known about. She began riding horses at the age of 3, and today she takes care of her father’s 30-horse stables and ranch. Generations before that, Black Pioneers worked with horses to entertain, compete, and farm the land, paving the way for the rich history of Black cowboys and cowgirls in America, largely ignored until recently I went. In 1875, for example, the first Kentucky Derby was won by a black jockey, Oliver Lewis; In fact, according to the Library of Congress, 15 of the first 20 Derbys were won by black jockeys.

Caitlin Gooch.
Caitlin Gooch.Nirma Hastie/NBC News

The 2021 film “The Harder They Fall” starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba and Regina King depicts cowboys Nat Love (Major) and Bill Pickett (Eddie Gathegi), a prolific black rodeo performer in the early 1900s . According to the National Cowboy Museum, Pickett is credited with originating the “bulldogging” technique of grabbing cattle by the horns and rolling them onto their sides, a technique still used today. That same year, the film “Concrete Cowboy” – also starring Elba – came out, depicting a modern-day non-profit that brings Black Philadelphians together with horses, the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club.

Gooch said it has been difficult to find information on black female equestrians, cowboys and jockeys. Nevertheless, some of the trailblazers she has identified include Sylvia Bishop, the first black woman to be officially licensed to train fully in 1954, and Cheryl White, a country singer in the early 1970s. The first black woman to be licensed to jockey in the U.S., according to the International Horse Museum.

Gooch also uses her social media pages to highlight these remarkable figures and portray their daily farm life. Seven years ago, she created a social media presence as “The Black Cowgirl,” looking to educate the public about the contributions of black Americans to horse culture. Today, he has over 40,000 followers across all his social media accounts.

“We have always been involved in the horse industry, and we want to be here and we deserve to be here,” Gooch said.

Gooch works to spread her passion for horses and books through her Saddle Up & Read initiative, which was established as a non-profit organization in 2019. Libraries encourage children to read by rewarding them with a day at their father’s farm if they check out three or more books.

According to the nation’s report card, only 32% of fourth graders in North Carolina will read at a proficient or higher level in 2022.

As of September 2022, Gooch has raised nearly $40,000 for Saddle Up and Read. The organization has grown and its activities now include visiting primary schools, libraries and other community centres. It has also created a library of books which contain diverse stories.

Caitlin Gooch.
Through September 2022, Gooch has raised nearly $40,000 for Saddle Up and Read.Nirma Hastie/NBC News

A few years ago, Gooch released a coloring book to educate children on Black equestrian history and plans to write more children’s books on Black horse culture.

“I think it’s important for people, not only for black people, not only for people of color, but also for white people, to realize that black people have always been a part of this,” Gooch said. Said. “We’re learning about everything else. We must learn about the dark horse-folk, too.”

See Gooch’s story »hidden history,” a new special from NBC News Digital Docs, which highlights three overlooked — or forgotten — stories from America’s past and its present.



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