African Americans in Thoroughbred Racing

This exhibit chronicles the integral role African Americans have played in Thoroughbred racing in America from the very first Derby, where 13 of the 15 jockeys were African-American, to present times. Featured artifacts include ankle boots worn by the inaugural Kentucky Derby winner, Aristides, and silks from Oaktown Stables, operated by the family of 1990s musician Stanley “Hammer” Burrell.

 

Silk Purse Artifact

Five Artifacts with Historical Significance:

A diverse group of people have contributed to the history of the Kentucky Derby. We have chosen five artifacts to help tell the stories and contributions that African Americans have made in Thoroughbred racing.

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Here are some of the legends featured in this exhibit:

Jimmy Winkfield

Jimmy Winkfield:

A Kentucky native who rode in the Kentucky Derby four consecutive years and won back-to-back runnings aboard His Eminence in 1901 and Alan-a-Dale in 1902. He is the most recent black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. He left the United States for Russia in 1904 where he had even greater success. After the Bolshevik Revolution led to the formation of the Soviet Union, Winkfield relocated to France and was living there at the time of his death in 1974. He was inducted in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2004.

 

Oliver Lewis

Oliver Lewis:

A native of Fayette County, Kentucky, won the first Kentucky Derby in 1875. He never rode in another Derby. He later became a bookmaker (a legal venture at the time) and wrote detailed handicapping charts that served as precursors to those found today in publications such as the Daily Racing Form.

 

Isaac Murphy

Isaac Murphy:

Born the child of enslaved persons in the area of Clark County, Kentucky. He was the first jockey to win the Derby on three occasions and in consecutive runnings with Buchanan in 1884, Riley in 1890 and Kingman in 1891. At the age of 35, he died after a brief battle with an illness. He was honored as an original inductee into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1955.