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Think about cowboys – what comes to mind? It's John Wayne hunting down injuns (problematic), it's Budweiser at the rodeo, it's Toby Keith putting a boot in yer ass, 'coz it's the American way, right? 

But here's the thing: the idea we've all got of American cowboy culture is all wrong. In fact, the wild, wild west was pretty damn, well, black.

Before the abolition of slavery, many slaves in the southern and western states were taught typical ranching skills – they learned to ride, to rope, to patrol fencelines and tend cattle. The only difference between what they did and what their white compatriots did? The white ones got paid. But then the Civil War happened, and white Confederate ranchers were conscripted into the war efforts en masse, heading into battle to fight for their "right" to keep slaves. Spoiler alert: they lost. Even bigger spoiler: while they were away, their cattle – you know, the thing that earned them the big bucks – had sacked them off with much the same enthusiasm as their newly-freed ex-slaves. The ranchers were, in a word, screwed – their staff numbers were way down, their retirement fund was mooing off into the sunset, and the white lads they'd normally hire had all gotten themselves killed in service of the world's worst cause. There was only one option left.

So that's how tending America's ranches and leaning hard into cowboy life became one of the earliest ways for a free Black man to earn a living after the Civil War – in fact, around 25% of cowboys were Black, though the extraordinary whitewashing that Hollywood gleefully undertook has told you a very different story. As it happens, Django wasn't quite as much of a fairytale as you might have thought. 

These days, the Black cowboy is one of the most enduring symbols of the ongoing human rights movement, thanks in large part to organisations such as the Compton Cowboys, and individuals such as Brianna Noble, who rode her horse Dapper Dan into urban Oakland to take a peaceful stand against police brutality and systemic racism. All over the country – and beyond! – mounted protesters have raised their fists and demanded better from the world. Once again, the horse has become a conduit for freedom. 

The 'Racism Ain't Cowboy' shirt was inspired by a sign at one of these protests, which was photographed and published in the New York Times. Now, your purchase of one of these limited edition slogan tops will help to encourage the next generation of BIPOC cowboys. 100% of the profits will go to equestrian access charities – each purchase will buy a book for Saddle Up and Read, a North Carolina-based literacy programme that gets kids in the saddle and in the library, and the remaining profits from each item will go to an access programme in the US or the UK, depending on the location of the buyer. These programmes will include the Ebony Horse Club (London), The Urban Equestrian Academy (Leicester), the Compton Cowboys Jr Posse (California), and more. If you'd like to see your contribution go to a specific charity, you'll be able to enter this at checkout. If you're happy to let us distribute the funds, simply place your order, sit back, and relax, knowing you've done a great thing and you're about to look cool as hell. Don't forget to hashtag your selfies with #RacismAintCowboy – because doing the right thing and fighting for a better world sure as hell is.

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