Black Heritage in Racing Collection

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.


Trainer mural at Churchill Downs

Black Heritage in Racing Tour

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.

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(Photo: Mural section featuring early Kentucky Derby winning trainers)


Isaac Murphy

"Proud of My Calling" Experience, part of the Black Heritage in Racing Collection

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.

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(Photo: Isaac Murphy, who won the Kentucky Derby three times on Buchanan (1884), Riley (1890), and Kingman (1891).)


Oliver Lewis

Black Heritage in Racing Exhibit

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.

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(Photo: Oliver Lewis. On May 17, 1875, Lewis won the very first Kentucky Derby on horse Aristides.)


Ronnie teaching about AATR

Black Heritage in Racing Student Program

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.

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Traveling Black Heritage in Racing exhibit

Black Heritage in Racing Traveling Exhibit

The Black Heritage in Racing traveling exhibit serves as a companion piece to the Black Heritage in Racing permanent exhibit at the Kentucky Derby Museum. Beginning in the era of settler colonialism in what would eventually become the United States, the exhibit details how enslaved Africans laid the foundation for horse racing in this part of the world. The exhibit continues by showing how crucial Black Americans were to the early success of the Kentucky Derby; how the era of segregation and Jim Crow drove African Americans from the industry; telling the stories of Black Americans that served as primary caretakers for horses in the 20th century and detailing the initiatives of the Black community to increase the participation of African Americans in the industry in the modern era.

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Isaac Murphy Tshirt

Isaac Murphy Merch

This t-shirt celebrates black jockey, Isaac Murphy who rode in eleven Kentucky Derbies, winning three times: on Buchanan in 1884, Riley in 1890, and Kingman in 1891. Murphy is the only jockey to have won the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks, and the Clark Handicap in the same year (1884).

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