George Blair

Dr. George Blair (1931?–    ), a practicing New York City cowboy, along with his wife, Ann, in 1988 founded the not-for-profit New York City Riding Academy at Randall's Island Park for teaching English and western horseback riding, rodeo arts, and Black western cowboy history. George also was a founder of the Black World Champion Rodeo, which took place in Harlem's Col. Charles Young Park and Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field, as well as at other venues throughout the United States.

George told this story to Humans of New York

“The story of the black cowboy began when our ancestors were brought to this country against their will. Many of them were adept with horses. The first Kentucky Derbies were won by black jockeys. One out of four cowboys in The West were black. But you never see that in the movies. My father was a sharecropper. When I was a young boy he would put me on the back of a horse and direct me where to plow. Eventually I became so skilled that I tried my hand at the rodeo circuit. But I soon learned that a black cowboy could sit on a bull for half a day and still not win any prize money. I ended up getting a doctorate from St. Johns, and over the years I worked at several different universities. But I kept running into colleagues who didn’t believe there was such a thing as a black cowboy. And that wasn’t going to stand. So in 1984 I organized The Black World Championship Rodeo. Nobody thought it could be done. It was the first rodeo ever held in a US urban city. But I got all the permits. I covered all the expenses from my own pocket. We flew in all the best black cowboys from around the country, and we flew them first class. We held our first rodeo in Harlem’s Colonel Young Park. Colonel Charles Young was denied a generalship during World War I because he was black. He rode his horse all the way to Washington DC in protest. The protest wasn’t successful, but sixty years later 20,000 people filled Colonel Young Park for the world’s first Black Championship Rodeo. And that number doesn’t even include the people peering down from the high-rise apartments. The Black World Championship Rodeo came back to Harlem every year for the next thirty years. And it’s gonna do for me what the movies did for John Wayne. It’s going to leave me a legend. We opened every rodeo with the national anthem, and a black cowboy would ride out carrying the American flag. It always made me emotional. Because with all the hurdles that we’ve faced, and still face, it’s amazing that we still love our country. But I do. Because it afforded me the opportunity to do what I did. And I delivered. I showed the whole world: there have always been black cowboys. And there always will be."

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