Winkler, Lisa K. “A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America”, Westwind Communications, 2012.
Miles Dean’s 5,000 Mile Journey
Mike Dean was on a quest to make sure that we would never forget the role that African-Americans played in the history of this country. When author Lisa Winkler met him she was sure that she wanted to write a book about him and so she did and here it is (and it is a wonderful read). Dean embarked on a six-month adventurous journey on horseback from coast to coast—from Manhattan to California. He made stops along the way at places that were important to African American history. He and his horse rode for over 5000 miles with the purpose of celebrating his heritage and as a result Winkler gives us this wonderful book that is a total treasure. Winkler was teaching at an inner city school in Newark, New Jersey and this was where she heard about Dean and his ride and decided that it had to be put down for others to read about. She tells us that it was Dean’s enthusiasm and passion won her over immediately and she fell in love with his stories.
There is a great deal to be learned here: There were African American US marshals who upheld the law and protected settlers; there was a ban against black cowboys competing against whites at rodeos and appearing in movies; Washington Square in Philadelphia was once the place for slave auctions; George Washington was a slave holder who brought his slaves to Philadelphia and in that way he could hold them and bypass a law that granted freedom after six months; the jockey on Man o’ War in the 1920 was Burns Murphy, a black man and son of a former slave who won three Kentucky Derbies and 44% of all of the races he participated in and there are many more stories. The book provides a sense of black pride and also clues us on in on so much that we do not know. It is wonderful for educators, students and ordinary people as well and I found every page to be a pleasure to read and had something that I did not know.