Kentucky Derby Museum opens Black Heritage in Racing Exhibit
Longtime exhibit moved to prominent location with larger footprint, more artifacts, artwork
Live acting performance also launching to bring stories to life
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 26, 2021) – The Black Heritage in Racing exhibit at Kentucky Derby Museum opens to the public on Monday, March 29. A ribbon cutting and media preview Friday, March 26 at 2 P.M. celebrates the newly expanded space.
The exhibit, a permanent display inside the Museum since 1993, documents the stories and contributions of Black horsemen in the sport of Thoroughbred racing. With support from Churchill Downs and the James Graham Brown Foundation, the Black Heritage in Racing exhibit has moved from the second floor to a larger and more prominent location on the first floor of the Museum. The new exhibit space is just under 930 square feet, which is more than 20 times larger than the previous exhibit space. This increased footprint allows the Museum to display more of its collection of artifacts pertaining to Black History in the sport, add new components such as oral history interviews and artwork, and provide visitors the best experience possible. The exhibit walks guests through Black Heritage in horse racing history, from the early days when Black horsemen dominated the sport, to the Jim Crow era that led to the exclusion of Black jockeys, and to modern times.
"We're excited to invite the public to see this beautiful exhibit. It is really striking, with a bold red theme throughout, and larger than life images of these horsemen," said Patrick Armstrong, President & CEO of Kentucky Derby Museum. "It was our team’s intent when designing this exhibit to give these individuals their time to shine, by making them stand out in these oversized pictures throughout the space. It is our hope that when exploring this exhibit, people will walk away with a greater appreciation of the Black Heritage that is woven through horse racing. It is a distinct honor for us to be the keepers and tellers of their stories for years to come."
Guests can explore the stories of history-makers like Oliver Lewis, the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby aboard Aristides in 1875. The story of Ansel Williamson, the trainer of Aristides, is also featured. Visitors can also learn about the career of one of the greatest jockeys of all time, Isaac Murphy. Born an enslaved person, he went on to win three Kentucky Derbys, and won an estimated 44% of his races, compared to the average jockey today winning around 20%. Many more stories are shared, including names from the modern era, like hip-hop star MC Hammer, who had a 3rd place finisher in the 1992 Kentucky Derby and won the Kentucky Oaks in 1991 with Lite Light. Additionally, guests will learn about Greg Harbut and Ray Daniels, the owners of Necker Island, a horse who contended for Kentucky Derby 146. Harbut's great-grandfather was the groom to the legendary horse Man o' War.
Black Heritage in Racing Collection
The Black Heritage in Racing Collection at the Museum features several components, including the expanded exhibit, a new tour that launched in December, and Proud of My Calling, a monthly, 60-minute live acting performance that brings the stories of Black horsemen to life. Proud of My Calling, supported by UPS, launches Saturday, March 27. Still to come, A Black Heritage in Racing traveling exhibit will be created over the next several months to travel to museums, community centers, visitor centers and churches. Additionally, the Museum’s Education Team teaches thousands of students each year through two programs focusing on Black Heritage in Racing during field trips, in-school teaching and virtual learning.
About Kentucky Derby Museum (DerbyMuseum.org):
Kentucky Derby Museum, a 501(C)(3) non-profit public charity organization in Louisville, Kentucky that has a commitment to ENGAGE, EDUCATE and EXCITE everyone about the extraordinary experience that is the KENTUCKY DERBY.