[ inside ]
Cross That River
b/ Allan Harris
A Story Seldom Told.
Many runaway slaves went west, and often found a better life as cowboys.
1851 — Near the Louisiana cotton plantation where he was imprisoned, a rebellious young slave named Blue hid in the reeds on the bank of the Red River.
That moon-lit night was stormy, and Blue was both terrified and excited as his long anticipated, and well planned river crossing was near. It was to be the run for freedom he always dreamed of.
That night, on a small (one-man) raft, using oars he carved from a fallen tree, Blue made it across the fast-running Red River, and successfully landed on the Texas side.
For the first time in his young life, Blue was a free man.
Blue Was Angry
b/ Allan Harris
South Miami (2016)
2016 — Allan Harris and his band at a nightclub in South Miami.
An Angry Black Man
Angry at being a cotton-picking slave on a Louisiana plantation, before the Civil War.
Angry at being bought and sold as “property,” rather than cared for as a human being.
Angry at being driven, daily, to near death, and being disciplined with the frayed end of a braided, leather whip.
AN IMPORTANT AMERICAN COMMUNITY OFTEN OVERLOOKED, when the story of America’s Wild West is told. A number of runaway slaves, after escaping their imprisonment, moved west to the midwestern plains, where they were “free” to join any of the many cattle drives, to earn a fair wage, and to live a good life, regardless of their religion, country, or color of skin. That is, as long as it wasn’t “native” red.
Many of the “Black” Cowboys earned fortune, and fame, both Banking and Business Tycoons, and Heroic, indian-killing Buffalo Soldiers, U.S. Calvary, riding the same as General George Custer and all the other History books, taught in American public schools.
Collectively, the pioneering African-American individuals became known as The “Black” West.
In the decades to follow, Blue made himself a home, bought himself a wife, and killed more than his share of Indians as a Buffalo Soldier.
The Negro Cavalry
b/ Allan Harris Cross That River (2003)
Cross That River
b/ Allan Harris
New York City Television / Solo Performance (2011)
1880s — Nearly half the working cowboys in Oklahoma and Texas were free black men, many had joined the U.S. Army’s Buffalo Soldiers (Negro Cavalry), and had fought alongside the (White-Anglo) Army in its war against the “Indians” (Native Americans).
After surviving a 19th Century filled with pain and suffering, Blue quietly retired, as so many still do, to Florida.
Cattle Rustling, vigilantism, and violence were also problems, and by 1859, driving cattle was outlawed in much of Missouri.
1860 — The (Wild) American West of 1860 provided a new beginning for Blue, and the other escaped slaves who chose to continue west after crossing the Mississippi, instead of north to New York and Chicago.
“Cross That River” is Allan Harris and Love Productions Theatrical presentation of Blue’s adventurous (African American) story.
Through voice and song, Allan integrates historical fact and colorful lore to tell an often overlooked story, an important chapter in the fight for Civil Rights and Equal Justice in The United States Of America.
The Wild Wild (Black) West
After his successful escape, and crossing of the Red River, Blue quickly found work (as a cowboy) on a cattle drive between San Antonio and Abilene … and it was Kansas where Blue planted the roots of his new life. A “Black Cowboy,” and a pioneer of The Black West.
Riding Free On The Chisholm Trail.
Texas ranchers driving their cattle on The Chisholm Trail started from either the Rio Grande or San Antonio, and joined the Chisholm Trail at the border between Texas and Oklahoma (Red River of the South).
The Trail is named for Jesse Chisholm, a half-Cherokee trader from Tennessee, who originally created the trail to transport his goods from one trading post to another.
Buffalo Soldiers — Originally members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, the Buffalo Soldiers formed (September 21, 1866) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the Black Cavalry by Native American tribes who fought in the Indian Wars. The name eventually came to represent all the African American regiments formed in 1866:
1866 — Because The Civil War restricted access to The Trail, their was a tremendous overstock of cattle in Texas, where the cattle were worth $4 per head, compared to more than $40 per head in the hard-to-reach North and East of America.
1867 — Joseph G. McCoy encouraged Texans to drive their cattle to his new stockyards in Abilene, Kansas. They responded, and in that first year, McCoy shipped 35,000 head, and became the largest stockyards west of Kansas City, Kansas.
O. W. Wheeler was one of those Texas ranchers who answered McCoy’s call. He and his partners drove 2,400 steers on The Chisholm Trail, from Texas to Abilene.
Wheeler’s herd was the first of an estimated 5,000,000 head of Texas cattle to reach Kansas over The Chisholm Trail.
The construction of the Union Pacific Railway through Nebraska eventually offered a cattle drive destination which was an attractive alternative to the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and the Texas Trail emerged as an alternative to the Chisholm Trail. Between 1876 and 1884 some drives went along the Texas Trail instead of the Chisholm Trail.
Cry of the Thunderbird
b/ Allan Harris Cross That River