Feb 09, 2020
During his childhood, Maurice Wade watched old Western films with his family every weekend. He loved watching the good guys win. Despite only seeing white cowboys portrayed on the screen, he was determined to become one when he grew up, just like his heroes.
After serving in the Vietnam War, Wade found a full-time job with the USDA and established roots in Denver, where he was first exposed to the rodeo circuit. He befriended an older African American cowboy who introduced him to calf-roping. Within a short time, Wade had his own horse and trailer and was spending his time off competing in rodeos.
Over the years, Wade became accustomed to being one of the few African American cowboys in Denver. But then he also started to learn about how African Americans and other diverse groups were the original cowboys of the Wild West.
For the past 35 years, Wade has been an integral part of the Bill Pickett Rodeo, now known as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Heritage Rodeo of Champions. It was started in 1984 by producer Lu Vason as a way to pay homage to African Americans' contributions to Western culture and to educate the public that black cowboys have existed for hundreds of years.
Wade is still involved with the rodeo and other educational events in hopes of inspiring future generations of African American cowboys and cowgirls, giving them the exposure he never had.
This is his #IAMDENVER story.
Video and photos by Emily Maxwell