African American Jockeys Who Won The Kentucky Derby

Did you know that an African-American jockey won the first Kentucky Derby?   Oliver Lewis was the jockey and he won on “Aristides.”  In fact, African-American jockeys dominated the sport of thoroughbred horse racing for over 25 years.

As we prepare for the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby, lets take a moment to remember the unsung heroes of thoroughbred horse racing and the contributions they made to the sport.

Listed below are the black jockeys who won the Kentucky Derby, the horses they rode, and the year they won.

1875     Oliver Lewis on “Aristides”

1877     William Walker on “Baden Baden”

1880     George Lewis on “Fonso”

1882     Babe Hurd on “Apollo”

1884     Isaac Murphy on “Buchanan”

1885     Enoch Henderson on “Joe Cotton”

1887     Isaac Lewis on “Montrose”

1890     Isaac Murphy on “Riley”

1891     Isaac Murphy on “Kingman”

1892     Alfie Clayton on “Azra”

1895     J. (Soup) Perkins on “Haima”

1896     Willie Sims on “Ben Brush”

1898     Willie Sims on “Plaudit”

1901     Jimmy Winkfield on “His Eminence”

1902     Jimmy Winkfield on “Alan-a-Dale”

Although these jockeys made nothing like the $2 million guaranteed purse offered in the 139th Kentucky Derby, some of them made a very good living plying their trade.  When Isaac Murphy died in 1896, his estate was valued at $50,000.

African-American jockeys travelled the elite racing circuit in the 1800’s.  However, because of injuries, illness, and lack of proper care, only a few became stars.

By the turn of the century, the sport began to change.  Growing racial tension between black and white jockeys began to erupt on and off the track.  The time soon arrived when black jockeys were no longer welcome on the track.  The days of the great black jockeys were over, never to return.

Today we salute the African-American winners of the Kentucky Derby and their place in history.

3 Reasons I Write About the History of the South

My books for children are set in the segregated South and focus on ordinary people who achieved extraordinary things for the time period in which they lived.  There are a number of reasons I write about the history of the South.  However, my top three reasons are:

1)  To Inspire Children to Dream Great Dreams For Their Lives – If children can see that the characters in my stories, who lived during a time of racial barriers and discrimination, could achieve their dreams, surely they will believe that they can too.  I’ll never forget the little girl who said to me, “I like your story about Uncle Jed.  I want to be a doctor when I grow up, but my grandmamma says I’ll never be one.  Now I know I can be a doctor.”  In all of my school visits I always ask the kids to tell me their dreams.  I want them to be heard.  I want them to feel that their dreams matter to someone.

2)  I Grew Up In The South – I was born and raised in Holly Springs, Mississippi on my grandfather’s farm.  My grandfather owned his own farm during a time when not many black people owned their own land.  I was a firsthand witness to the struggles my grandfather went through in maintaining his farm, which is why I put obstacles to be overcome in my stories.  I want children to know that dreams are sometimes not easy to achieve.  It seems like the bigger the dream, the bigger the obstacles that come your way.  But with persistence, focus, and determination, dreams can and will come true.

3) I Am Proud To Be From Mississippi – When someone asks me where I’m from, I without hesitation say Mississippi.   And being a proud product of Mississippi, I want children to be proud of where they are from and to remember that it is not where you start but where you end that counts.

The South has a troubled history that some think is best forgotten.  But only by discussing it can we focus on how to do our part to make the world a better place.