- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

NEW YORK
This cowboy rides into the sunset East Coast-style: black felt cowboy hat, pointy-toed boots and a white bandanna.
And New Yorkers love it.
Jessie Wise, a founding member of the Federation of Black Cowboys, takes particular pride in introducing inner-city children to horses and history especially the black influence in the Old West.
"The community loves us," said Mr. Wise, 62, who sports a Western-style handlebar mustache and runs a construction company.
Federation members roam through the city, teaching children how to ride, care for and handle horses, appearing at major events as well as fairs, picnics and schools.
There is no official dress code, but members look the part in tight jeans, leather belts, boots and wide-brimmed hats.
The federation was formed in 1994 to promote the history of black cowboys, whose contribution to Western lore has been obscured by more heralded frontier figures, including gunslinging lawman Wyatt Earp and prairie pundit Will Rogers.
But according to the federation's Web site, the West also was built by the likes of Nat Love, known as Deadwood Dick, who was born in a Tennessee slave cabin and worked as a cowboy and in the rodeo; and Mary Fields, known as Stagecoach Mary, who in 1885 ran a stagecoach line.
"Usually on TV, it's about whites," said Ellis Bryan, 16, of Brooklyn. "I didn't know black cowboys existed until I met them."
That came after driving past the Cedar Lane stables in Queens with his parents. "I'd look out the window and see these horses and kids running around and having fun," he said.
Since his first visit two years ago, Ellis has become a regular, learning to ride and groom horses.
At Cedar Lane located on 25 acres of city-owned property in the Howard Beach section of the borough the group holds parties, field trips and an annual "Rodeo Showdeo" festival.
Many of the group's 40 members are native Southerners who grew up around horses. Others are New Yorkers raised on Western films and cowboy legends, and teenagers who first learned about horses from the Black Cowboys themselves.
New Yorker Warren Small, who acts as federation spokesman, spent summers in North Carolina among tobacco crops, horses and mules. One of his early memories is of a mounted city police officer who gave him a ride through Harlem.
"You might say from that day forward, it left such an impression upon me that I just knew I was going to have a life that in some way was going to interact with a horse as well as law enforcement," said Mr. Small, 57, a court officer.
Inspired, Mr. Small began studying the history of the nation's black cowboys; today, he is an expert.
"We let the kids know that we didn't just start involving ourselves with this because we knew about Hopalong Cassidy or Roy Rogers or so forth," Mr. Small said. "We were those cowboys."
Phil Roberts, a University of Wyoming history professor, says black cowboys became common after the Civil War, and that some figured prominently in the Old West as rodeo cowboys or members of all-black cavalry units known as "Buffalo Soldiers."
Back east, though, their legacy remains largely unknown.
"I always wanted to be a cowboy," said Don Rouse, 48, a retired corrections officer. "People said, 'You're crazy. There are no cowboys in New York.' We've made them out to be liars."

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