NPR runs a nice piece (with music) about the surpisingly multi-ethnic background of classic cowboy songs, from The Streets of Laredo to Cotton-Eye Joe.
a close examination of early cowboy music reveals details about some of the very first cowboys that don't fit the usual stereotypes. [...]
No one is sure how many African-Americans worked as cowboys in the trail drives, but estimates run as high as 1 in 4. [...]
The trail drives were a unique moment in history that brought together a diverse lot of men, including freed slaves and confederate war veterans. And, while some cowboy crews were segregated, photographs of others show black and white men working side by side in [...] "range equality."