Little did Miles Dean realize as he muscled his wrestling opponents to the floor in WeeQuahic High School in Newark, New Jersey that his courage and strength would one day lead him to do what most people would think is unimaginable.
When I think of driving an automobile across the United States, I think of several drivers and a comfortable car with a protective roof and air conditioning for crossing hot states. How about crossing America riding a horse?
In A Black Cowboy’s Ride across America, Miles Dean completes that epic journey in 2007. Why, because it had never been done by a black man. Why, because it was a challenge to Miles’ physical and mental endurance to draw a line in history from the African Burial Ground Memorial in Manhattan to the grounds of the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. Through his veins ran the mingled blood of countless black forefathers. Miles had charted a route that would pass through towns and cities to honor as many black heroes as possible.
Throughout the story, he speaks of the freedom that Black Americans now have compared to days when they arrived in chains aboard slave ships. Sold in “Congo Square” to the highest bidders with no regard for family. Fathers, mothers, and their children were torn from one another and then forced to perform white man’s labor under appalling conditions.
Miles determined to honor all of these desecrated people along with those who fought so bravely and tirelessly to eliminate the slave trade. In A Black Cowboy’s Ride across America, he visited memorials raised to honor all the Black Americans who fought during the horrific Civil War where, even in deadly battle, prejudice ran rampant. Fearless now, Miles rode his main horse Sankofa, through the very town where John Brown attempted to muster a slave revolt but in turn was captured by Robert E. Lee and hung.
Miles visited places where small black jockeys had ridden prized horses in prestigious races, only to be returned to their Jim Crow rank after winning a championship title for their white owners. Yet, throughout his ride, “He tried not to dwell on the tragedies black people had faced … preferring to celebrate … achievements.” He passed the Lorraine Motel and its balcony where Dr. Martin Luther King was slain—the prophetic leader who led this nation’s Black Americans to insist that Civil Rights finally be strongly enforced for all peoples once and for all.
Miles’s journey at times was fraught with danger. Crossing the Mississippi River Bridge with its six lanes of cars and monstrous 18-wheelers racing by forced him and Sankofa to ride perilously close to the three-foot high bridge railing. If the horse had turned quickly, stumbled, or reared at all, Miles could have been tossed over the railing and into the river — and Miles claimed to be a poor swimmer.
At times, Miles and his steed became separated from their support crew traveling along the highway. At one point while attempting to climb a steep hillside, Sankofa stopped and refused to go any farther. Climbing down to examine the horse, Miles noticed how difficult it was to stand upright, let alone go forward, so steep was the slope. The horse had sensed the danger and humbled its rider.
If you are searching for a story where man and beast, working together, overcame a host of obstacles, A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America is the book for you. Its language is simple yet interesting and descriptive. It is a great read for young readers because its story is one of courage and the will to complete a task that most youth and adults would think foolhardy. Determined Miles completed his 5000 mile trek in 180 days. This is the fascinating story of a real man, one who rode on — rain or shine, even when saddle weary — to pay tribute to his forefathers and prove the strength of Black Cowboys.