FEDERATION OF BLACK COWBOYS
The Federation of Black Cowboys (FBC) might be one of New York City’s best kept secrets. The organization, officially formed in the early-’90s, is committed to preserving the western way of life, even in the juxtaposition of a fast-paced, big city.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City remains a glimpse of western heritage. This piece of living history is known as the Federation of Black Cowboys, a New York City-based cowboy community that remains committed to sharing the legacy of their cowboy ancestors with the next generation of young African-American city youth.
Ellis “Mountain Man” Harris is one of the long-standing members of the Federation of Black Cowboys. After watching the first black rodeo in Harlem in the 1980s, he found a new community interested in the rodeo way of life. He has lived most of his cowboy life in New York City (48 years), but was raised on a dairy farm outside Richmond, Virginia. [Harlem, NYC]
Mountain Man eventually earned another nickname, “Bulldogger”, for becoming a champion steer wrestler in his ‘50s. Photograph: Mountain Man, top; Former NYC mayor Ed Koch, foreground.
Kesha Morse, a Brooklyn native, is the first female member and officer of the Federation of Black Cowboys. As the organization’s current president, Kesha oversees the organization’s activities, which focus on teaching horsemanship and western values to inner city youth. [Brooklyn, NYC]
For over 20 years, the organization maintained up to 60 horses at their stables in Queens, NY. In 2016, with declining membership and dwindling finances, the FBC lost their long held stables and ability to host youth programs at the same capacity. [Curly’s stables, Howard Beach, Queens, NY]
With many members aging out of the organization, the FBC hopes to continue their programs and recruit younger members so the western way of life can be preserved and passed down. [Howard Beach, Queens, NY]
Mountain Man supervising a chuckwagon inspired cookout. Prior to recently losing much of his ability to see, he enjoyed cooking with his collection of cast iron pans and dutch ovens over open fires amongst his cowboy friends.
Long-time FBC member “Curly” and his grandson. Curly maintains the horses the FBC uses for youth programs and is actively working to build a museum of African-American cowboy history in hopes to pass down this knowledge to future generations.
Being a cowboy or a cowgirl is more than the fringe jackets and the boots. Heather, one of their first female members, rode horses with the FBC in parades throughout New York City. Horsemanship skills were a must to keep the horses calm amongst the huge crowds, city buses, taxis, and noisy traffic.
Hondo joined the FBC as an inner city youth from Coney Island. Being part of this group gave him a sense of home and direction, and helped build his self-esteem. He is also an active member and descendent of Native American tribes from Long Island, NY.