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Miles Dean- Short Bio

New York To California Trail Rider
Fee: Please contact for more Info
Mr. Dean Commutes from New Jersey



Logo of the Star-Ledger Newspaper

A ride for the history bookslink to PDF of Star-Ledger article

Saturday, September 22, 2007
Star-Ledger Staff

oneBack when the cowboys tamed the frontier, traveling long distances by horse was the norm.

But in the 21st-century bustle of highways, byways and relentless traffic, the continental crossing Miles Dean of Piscataway is about to attempt seems downright audacious.

Dean, a 52-year-old social studies teacher in Newark, leaves today on a half-year, 6,000-mile horseback journey from New York to California intended to heighten awareness of black cowboys and other African-Americans who helped forge American history.

"The journey is a journey of celebration of the achievements of our African-American ancestors in the exploration, expansion and settlement of the United States," Dean said.

Eugene Brown, principal of the Chancellor Avenue School, where Dean will be on a leave of absence from his teaching duties, said students will monitor Dean's journey through postings on his Web site, (You can also hear live updates from Dean, starting Monday, at

"Miles is following his passion," he said. "He's trying to bring more awareness to this whole black cowboy thing. Everyone's very excited about his effort."

Dean, who calls himself "a modern African-American pioneer," plans to start out at the African-American Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan and will be escorted by a group of African-American riders when he makes his way through Newark tomorrow.

Taking two horses for the excursion, a 9-year-old Arabian stallion named Sankofa and a 12-year-old palomino named Blaze, he will be accompanied by a driver, a horse trailer with living quarters and a video cameraman.

"I'll be traveling on roads that are not accommodating to horses, and when I can find a stretch that is more accommodating, I'll head right for it," Dean said. One segment of the trip through New Jersey, for example, will take him along 31 miles of the Raritan Canal towpath from Piscataway to Trenton.

But Dean is confident his team is ready for the challenge.

"Barring any accident, both the horses and I are physically and emotionally prepared to do this," he said.

"I have no illusions about what I'm going to run into," he added. "I'm going to run into everything in terms of people and conditions and weather. But I'm emotionally prepared to deal with that. So I've never looked at it as anything other than a done deal."

Dean said he will speak to students in school assemblies as he makes his way cross-country, trying to instill an appreciation for black heritage often overlooked in history lessons.

He said few know the story of the "Buffalo Soldiers," regiments of African-American U.S. cavalry that were so named by Native Americans because of their courage and prowess in battle as they guided westbound settlers through hostile Indian territories.

E. Ethelbert Miller, director of the African-American Resource Center at Howard University in Washington,D.C., applauded Dean's effort and said it could provide a valuable lesson in black history.

He also said Dean will serve as a role model for young African-Americans, recalling the black cowboys he used to see at traveling rodeos when he was a boy in Washington.

"It was always exciting for kids to see black people on a horse," he said. "When you get kids who are 7, 8 years old, the image of Miles on horseback might be very positive and very memorable."

Dean said he hopes the trip will instill in black children a sense of their heritage that transcends just being the descendants of slaves.

"A child's self-esteem and development are predicated to a great extent on history, especially the history of one's self," he said. "You make a child feel good about him self, and that's a motivation for that child to excel."

A graduate of Howard University and Weequahic High School in Newark, Dean considers himself something of an adventurer and expects his cross-country journey will leave him with a sense of personal fulfillment.

"Ultimately you want to be the best that you can be," he said. "The tennis player wants to go to Wimbledon, and the football player wants to go to the NFL.

"One likes to feel that he still has one good one left in him."

Rudy Larini may be reached at or at (973) 392-4253.