Miles J. Dean, a Newark, NJ schoolteacher, rode his horse from New York to California to celebrate the contributions African Americans made in the settling of the United States. During his six-month, 5,000-mile journey, Dean, a 57-year-old African American, addressed people along the way at schools and colleges, community organizations, and penal institutions. He met hundreds of Americans through informal encounters at campgrounds, Wal-Mart parking lots, restaurants, and country stores. With each, he shared his reasons for the journey and inspired others to fulfil their dreams. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Dean first learned about cowboys from watching television. Like any boy at that time, he wanted to be like those heroes and pretended to be a cowboy. He galloped through the streets on his bicycle, ambushing outlaws on street corners. Although Hollywood helped keep his dream alive, the cowboys on TV didn’t look like Dean.
At age 23, he saw Sidney Poitier play a cowboy in the 1972 film, Buck and the Preacher, and realized he too could be a cowboy. He deferred his teenage dream another 10 years before he could afford riding lessons and eventually bought his first horse. But the film inspired him to explore the African American history he never learned in school, specifically the contributions made during the 1500-1800s when horses were the primary means of transportation. He knew he wanted to make a cross-country journey and retrace the steps of these early pioneers; it was just a question of when.
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“Every once in a while a book comes along that simply changes your perception of your world and yourself. Lisa Winkler’s story of how Miles Dean, an African American man, crossed the United States on horseback, will make you think about what it is to be an American. Too often, African American history is relegated to four weeks in February. Miles Dean’s journey across America makes American history come alive and made me want to revisit some of the places Brother Miles rode through [where he] relived the rich and glorious history of African Americans in this country.”
Raymond A. Winbush, Author, Belinda’s Petition: A Concise History of Reparations for the TransAtlantic Slave Trade
“Miles Dean’s cross-country horseback ride for African American history was the kind of journey that can inspire thousands in myriad ways and is worthy of chronicling for a mass audience. Detailing Dean’s trek in a book is a sure method of unearthing many more precious nuggets of our American past that bear telling to people of all ages and races.”
Marian Smith Holmes, Associate Editor,Smithsonian
“Lisa Winkler has written an inspiring book; she has engaged us at the level of concrete contributions of African Americans to the history of the United States. Miles Dean’s own participation in that history is inescapably awesome. I salute this work and encourage everyone to read this powerful book.”
Molefi Kete Asante, Author, 100 Greatest African Americans
“This story connects real people to real events as it represents a history of epic proportions in human terms. Lisa Winkler connects events to their times and places and takes the reader on a journey at once individual and collective.”
Peter Rutkoff, Professor of American Studies, Kenyon College, Co-author, Fly Away: The Great African-American Cultural Migrations
“Efforts to help enlarge our nation’s understanding of the African American experience in America are very valuable, particularly those that help people to understand the national scope of the story.”
Chuck Hunt, Superintendent, Fort Davis National Historic Site, (A US Army post that was Regimental Headquarters to all four Buffalo Soldier Regiments during the “Indian Wars”)
“It was tremendous to see how much pride my middle school students took in learning about the many valuable contributions that African American cowboys and jockeys made to our country’s formation. When Mr. Dean first told me about his dream to travel across the country on horseback, I thought it was terrific and incredibly brave. I loved that our students had a man who not only taught history, but actually had the guts and real personal drive to make history living!! He truly had his horse, “walk his talk!!”
Charity Haygood, Principal, Brick Avon Avenue Academy, Newark, New Jersey (former vice-principal at Chancellor Avenue School)