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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Q Lyr Req: Whose Old Cow (N. Howard Thorp) (26) RE: 19th century black cowboy rap 13 Aug 03


Alberta and Saskatchewan are the two provinces that were the last to grow in population in Canada; the growth came after 1900 with the settlement of the West. Blacks in the Canadian prairies in the 19th century were few and far between; John Ware, the cowboy turned rancher an exception, along with a whiskey trader, some railroad employees, and the rare freight handler.
In the period 1907-1911, groups of Blacks from Oklahoma, in part sponsored by a White-owned colonization company that suggested Alberta as a home for the colored race. During that period, some 1100 Blacks came to the region from Oklahoma. Most entered farming, clearing land for that purpose. The best known colony established at Amber Valley, Alberta. A few cattle were raised, but ranching was not attempted on any real scale. In order to hold their farms, the Blacks took a variety of jobs- logging, railroading, unskilled labor and undoubtedly working on the ranches.
In 1911, the Canadian border was effectively closed to Blacks by a variety of means, and it was some time before it was possible for Blacks to come to Canada from the States. By that time, emmigration changed to the cities, and the prairie towns rarely received Blacks. In the 1920s, times were hard. Even the Ku Klux Klan reared its head, and large meetings were held in major centers (8000 attended the organizational meeting in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and I have a photo of a similar large meeting in Calgary, Alberta. Of course the Klan, by that time, was anti-Jew-Catholic-Oriental-Slavic-etc.

In the period that the Blacks came from Oklahoma, 1901-1912, 609,000 immigrants came to Alberta-Saskatchewan. Except for the 1100 Blacks, all were white, thus fewer than one in 600 were Black.

Amber Valley is one of the few areas that still has Black descendants living there; they are completely accepted by their White neighbors. Many of the third generation of the Black farmers from Oklahoma moved into the cities and the identity of the little colonies was lost.
The remaining homestead areas in Alberta were taken up in large part by Ukrainian and Polish immigrants (first came in the 1890s but the largest group after WW1).

Blacks never really found a home as cowboys in the Canadian prairies; the ranching roundups of the last eighty years are composed of white ranchers and their white hands. Ware died in 1905; there were no replacements.


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