The concept of all-black regiments had originated during the Civil War when northern states organized regiments of free blacks from the north and former slaves from the south. This concept was met with resistance in the north, which resistance is generally accepted to have been racially oriented in nature. However, by 1863 the U. S. Colored Volunteers had been organized into a cavalry regiment, an artillery regiment and almost two dozen infantry regiments. It is estimated that about one out of ten Union soldiers serving in the American Civil War were black.
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Bill Pickett was born to Thomas Jefferson and Mary Gilbert Pickett in Jenks-Branch, Williamson County, Texas in 1870, one of 13 children. His heritage was African-American and Cherokee. He is credited for having invented the method of steer wrestling commonly called “bulldogging.” For this, his showmanship and his other skills he became the first person of African-American descent to be inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, among his other honors.
The 1940 Kingsport, Tennessee Kingsport Times headline read “For Carefree Fun, Sing Cowboy Ditties” and offered copes of Popular Cowboy Songs in exchange for ten cents in coin. It led off with “Goodbye, Old Paint” and included several other songs of the era along with the guitar chords for each melody.
(Image credit: Kinsgsport Times)
Bose Ikard was born a slave around 1843 – 1847 in Noxubee County, Mississippi. Bose gave his age to be 37 in 1880, making his year of birth around 1843, but some accounts say 1847. All of the available genealogical records list his father to be Dr. Milton Ikard with the mother’s name simply listed as “unknown.” In the vernacular of the time, his “master” was Dr. Ikard who was the source of his last name. His mother would eventually be revealed as having the last name King and to have also been born in Mississippi, but beyond that, no more is known of her. The Ikards moved first to Union Parish, Louisiana before coming to Texas about 1852 when Bose was around 8. Bose lived with the Ikards and moved with them first to Lamar County and then to Parker County. There he lived the life of a farmer and ranch hand, joining Milton Ikard and others defending their homes and property from Indian attacks. While living here, Bose acquired his skills as a cowboy, to ride, rope steers, fight Indians and to shoot.
Alfonso Laurell Harris was born March 26, 1926 at old Parkland Hospital a few miles from his home. He was a good student and entered Booker T. Washington High School at age 11, allowing him to graduate when he was just 15. He he later moved to the Northwest and began working as an aircraft engine inspector in Ogden, Utah. On July 14, 1944 he enlisted in the US Army, shortly after his 18th birthday at nearby Fort Douglas, Utah. As it did for hundreds of thousands of others, the terms of his enlistment read “Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”
Doris “Dorie” Miller was a true Texas hero. He was classified as a Navy Messman on December 7, 1941, serving on the USS West Virginia, a battleship. At the time, Messman was one of the few positions open to African American sailors. Miller was solidly built, carrying over 200 lb. on his 6’3” frame. He’d taken up boxing and was heavyweight champion of the West Virginia out of a crew of about 2,000. The West Virginia was on station in in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor. That morning, he woke at 0600, as was his custom. He served breakfast mess and was still below deck collecting soiled laundry when the first torpedo hit the West Virginia just before 0800. He heard and felt the explosion and immediately went to his battle station, an anti-aircraft gun near the heart of the ship.