6 Black History Lessons We Learned From Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter’


March 29, 2024

Rodeo season is in full effect!

Beyoncé just released her highly anticipated album, “Cowboy Carter.” It’s Act II of a three-part project and the icon’s eighth solo album. Showcasing the depth of country music, the album pays homage to its Black roots while fusing a blend of sounds, including R&B, rap, and contemporary country. Here are 6 Black history lessons we learned from “Cowboy Carter.

1. The History of Linda Martell


In ‘The Linda Martell Show’ track, Beyoncé pays homage to Linda Martell, the first Black woman in country music to release a major album with ‘Color Me Country’ in 1970. She also was first solo Black woman to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, the longest-running radio show in American history, based in Nashville.

2. The Rich Legacy of the Chitlin Circuit


Cowboy Carter’s ‘Rodeo Chitlin’ Circuit’ tracklist cover pays homage to the historic network of venues established in the 1930s. This circuit provided safe spaces for Black entertainers, including iconic performers like Ray Charles, and Ella Fitzgerald, to showcase their talents in the face of segregation.

3. The Role of the Rodeo Queens


Beyoncé’s album cover features her wearing a ‘Cowboy Carter’ sash, a nod to Rodeo Queens who sport similar attire from contests like Miss Rodeo Texas. These figures, along with cowboys and cowgirls, shaped rodeo culture, highlighting the legacy of Black rodeos in reclaiming their place in Western history.

4. The Role of the Banjo in Early Country Music


In ‘Texas Hold ‘Em,’ the banjo is played by Rhiannon Giddens, the lead singer and banjo player of ‘The Carolina Chocolate Drops.’ Beyond her musical talent, Giddens has been instrumental in highlighting the history of the banjo and Black contributions to early country music.

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A post shared by Rhiannon Giddens (@rhiannongiddens)


5. Little-Known Music History

Beyoncé’s cover of the Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’ was originally written by Paul McCartney in honor of the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine Black students who faced discrimination and segregation after enrolling in the all-white Arkansas high school in 1957.

6. The History of Black Country Westerns

Beyoncé reveals that each song in ‘COWBOY CARTER’ is its own version of a reimagined Western film, drawing inspiration from Black cinema classics like ‘The Hateful Eight,’ ‘The Harder They Fall,’ and ‘Five Fingers for Marseille,’ among others.

Cover photo: 6 Black History Lessons We Learned From Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter’/Photo Credit: Beyoncé.com

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