Amarillo Opera to explore the history of black cowboys in 'Joshua's Boots'
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Adam Richardson, front, stars in Amarillo Opera's "Joshua's Boots."
Photo by Chip Chandler

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Adam Richardson's a singer, not a wrangler, but he can't help but feel a close connection to the cowboy he's portraying in Joshua's Boots.

Richardson stars in Amarillo Opera's revival of the Adolphus Hailstork opera, to be staged at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Buchanan St. Tickets are $20, plus fees.

"Joshua's journey hits home in a way," Richardson said.

After his father is lynched at their Tennessee home, Joshua heads west to find a better life for himself in Kansas, which ex-slaves like himself hope is a new promised land during Reconstruction. He's asked to become a buffalo soldier, but it's the cowboy life for him.

"He wanted to pursue his passion of being a wrangler, just like I wanted to pursue my passion of becoming a musician," Richardson said.

But many felt that a black man in 1878 had no business being a cowboy, like the unrepentant ex-Confederate soldier Frederick (Chancelor Barbaree).

The contemporary opera, though, is designed as an educational piece and therefore appropriate to school-age children. Its public performance Feb. 3 will come after performances for fourth graders on Feb. 2.

"What really draws me to the piece is the strong historical significance," said David O'Dell, the opera's general director. "It's a story we don't tell often enough or hear often enough — the role of African Americans in the settling of this area."

"It allows students to dig back into history," agreed NaGuanda Nobles, who sings the roles of Joshua's mother and Sally, a maternal figure he meets in Kansas.

Both Richardson and Nobles are particularly excited for the school performances.

"I remember being in elementary school when plays would come in," Richardson said. "I like bringing something to kids so they hopefully say, 'I can see myself doing that.'"

Like Joshua, Richardson said, the students should learn "if you really want to work at something, that's what's important."



Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.