Black jockeys and horsemen dominated the sport of Thoroughbred racing, from the first Kentucky Derby in 1875 through 1903, right before the Jim Crow era pushed them out. In fact, 15 of the first 28 Derby winners were ridden by Black jockeys. A new tour and special programming bring this rich history to life in a new way and serve as an extension to the Museum’s longtime permanent exhibit, African Americans in Thoroughbred Racing, and educational programming.
Did you know Black jockeys dominated horse racing in its early years? In fact, 13 of the 15 jockeys in the first Kentucky Derby were Black. Take a tour through historic Churchill Downs Racetrack while learning about the impact African Americans have had on the sport.
(Photo: Mural section featuring early Kentucky Derby winning trainers)
Meet Isaac Murphy, born enslaved, he is considered one of the most successful jockeys of all time, winning an estimated 44% of his races, and nabbing three Kentucky Derbys aboard Buchanan (1884), Riley (1890), and Kingman (1891). Costumed actors bring Murphy and other great Black horsemen to life in this immersive experience.
(Photo: Isaac Murphy, who won the Kentucky Derby three times on Buchanan (1884), Riley (1890), and Kingman (1891).)
Did you know the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in 1875 was Black? Explore this exhibit to learn more facts about the past, present and future of African Americans in Racing.
(Photo: Oliver Lewis. On May 17, 1875, Lewis won the very first Kentucky Derby on horse Aristides.)
Learn more about Kentucky Museum’s Educational programming centered around the history of African Americans and the Derby. Our team teaches thousands of students each year about this important history through field trips and in-school teaching.
(Photo: Manager of Education Services, Ronnie Dreistadt, leading education program.)