Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Hector Bazy, the Negro Cowboy": a manuscript

One of my favorite duties as an archivist is providing behind-the-scenes tours of the Anacostia Community Museum Archives. During these tours, I am able to showcase select Smithsonian treasures, such as the Hector Bazy papers. Born to slave parents in 1851, Bazy followed his heart after emancipation and pursued the life of a cowboy.

Like most Americans, my early perceptions of cowboys were shaped by Western novels, movies, and television programming. As a result, John Wayne represented the ideal cowboy taming the “Wild West.” In reality, African Americans were also among the pioneers seeking opportunity in the North American Frontier; for these men, Bazy’s manuscript provides a personal account of their role as cowboys.

Bazy describes his experiences driving and branding cattle; breaking horses; cooking on a camp fire; and skirmishing with Native Americans, especially Chief Quanah Parker, a Kwakadi Comanche.

The document also includes brief reminiscences of his childhood in slavery on a Texas plantation, the origins of his name, and his motivation for leaving the plantation once freed. According to Bazy, “I was ambitious to get out into the world and try . . . to make something of myself.”

Thanks to current technology, one doesn’t require a behind-the-scenes tour to view Bazy’s manuscript: the Hector Bazy, the Negro Cowboy test record is accessible online.

Pictured: Hector Bazy with horse and other cowboys.


  1. No doubt about it!! This is great information and I think more people should follow their heart - just like Hector Bazy. Keep up the great work!

  2. What a wonderful read, thank you so much for making it possible to view this and other works on-line. Steph,UK

    1. Did you know that the Smithsonian now has a Transcription project for the HECTOR BAZY MANUSCRIPT. 1910. Here is the link to the project online:

      Many pages have been transcribed, but more review work is still waiting to happen. Would you be interested to help or tell your friends to join us?
      Thank you.