But the Hollywood portrayal of the Wild West is a whitewashed version of the reality. It is thought that about a quarter of all cowboys were black.
Like many people, Jim Austin - a college-educated, 45-year-old businessman - hadn't heard about the black presence in the Old West.
The discovery inspired him and his wife Gloria to set up the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. It pays tribute to some of the forgotten black cowboys - men like Bill Pickett, a champion rodeo rider who invented bulldogging, a technique where he would jump from a horse on to a steer and take the animal down by biting on its lip.