Location: Cleveland, MS, United States
"Delta Hill Riders" by Rory Doyle
A recent article in Smithsonian estimated that just after the Civil War, one in four cowboys were African American. Yet this population was drastically underrepresented in popular accounts. And it is still. The “cowboy” identity retains a strong presence in many black communities.
This ongoing project in the Mississippi Delta sheds light on an overlooked black subculture — one that resists both historical and contemporary stereotypes.
The photos feature black heritage rodeos, horse shows, trail rides, “Cowboy Night” at black nightclubs, and subjects’ homes across the Delta.
Delta Hill Riders is a counter-narrative to the often-negative portrayal of African Americans. Instead, I have captured a group of riders showing love for their horses and fellow cowboys, while also passing down traditions and historical perspectives among generations.
On a personal level, I've been welcomed by these folks in a way I could not have imagined. It’s a story that's particularly timely with the current political environment, and one with a renewed focus on rural America.
Ultimately, the project aims to press against my own old archetypes — who could and could not be a cowboy, and what it means to be black in Mississippi — while uplifting the voices of my subjects.