Black Rodeo: A History of the African American Western

Univ. of Illinois. Feb. 2023. 272p. ISBN 9780252086977. pap. $24.95. FILM
Mask (film, Vassar Coll.; Contemporary Black American Cinema) examines the cinematic African American western hero, primarily from the 1950s to the present. While this parallels the development of the civil rights era, and many of the westerns that included Black cowboys had colonialist and imperialistic characteristics, the author shows that silent films in the 1920s that featured Bill Pickett and independent, all-Black casts in westerns during the 1930s set significant precedents. Some of the well-known stars of this genre included football stars-turned actors, such as Woody Strode, Jim Brown, and Fred Williamson. Mask shows how this gave way to Buck and the Preacher (1972), starring and directed by Sidney Poitier, and eventually led to the 2012 American revisionist western film Django Unchained, starring Jamie Foxx. Among the revelations in this richly researched work are German sauerkraut westerns that preceded Italian spaghetti westerns and Jeff Kanew’s 1972 documentary Black Rodeo.
VERDICT This carefully crafted academic treatment will enhance library shelves, although this book’s conceptual language may challenge lay readers. Still, it’s worth the effort.
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