Resource Library

Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1872

CT3 CARES: #StolenHistory

African American Contributions To Horse Racing

Trading card featuring Black jockey Isaac Lewis

From the beginnings of the sport in the United States, and particularly from the early 19th century, African-Americans have made significant contributions to horse racing as trainers and jockeys.
At the first Kentucky Derby, in 1875, 13 of 15 jockeys were African American. Between 1890 and 1899, Black jockeys won six Derbies, one Preakness Stakes, and three Belmont Stakes.

However as horse racing increased in popularity across mainstream America, so too did the amount of money to be made, and African Americans found themselves suddenly excluded from riding and hired exclusively as stable hands. It wasn’t until 2000, 79 years later, before another Black jockey, Marlon St. Julien would ride in the Kentucky Derby.
Currently there are no African-Americans among the 128 members of the Jockey Club and only five people of color are employed out of 286 employees.

Discussion Question: What sports are you aware of that were established by people of color and now generally or exclusively associated with white athletes and audiences?

Additional Reading:

Decimation of the Black Farmer

Black peanut farmers in Florida ca. 1981

For nearly a century, racial discrimination in agriculture, exclusion from federal relief programs, and laws that preyed upon the economically disadvantaged have decimated the number of Black farmers in America from the nearly 1 million in 1920 (14% of farmers) to fewer than 50,000 today (1.3% of farmers).

Discussion Question: What image do you conjure when you think “farmer?” Why do you think that is?

Additional Reading:

Missing from the Top Player Lists

Photograph of Josh Gibson
Josh Gibson, possibly the greatest baseball hitter of all time

Google Top 10 or 100 Baseball players and you will find one thing consistent across posted lists; the exclusion of one of, if not the greatest hitters of all time, Josh Gibson. Although there are no “official” statistics, Negro League superstar Josh Gibson’s hitting prowess is legendary. With an official career batting average of .361 (Ty Cobb has the all-time MLB career average of .366), stories of 700-foot home runs, eighty-home-run seasons, and an “unofficial” home run count of 800, Josh Gibson is a larger-than-life legend. Not only was he known as the “Black Babe Ruth”, some fans at the time who saw both Ruth and Gibson play called Ruth “the white Josh Gibson.”

Discussion Question: Are you aware of any deserving “superstars” who are consistently left off of “Top 10 or 100” lists?

Additional Reading:

Nashville as “Music City”: A Conveniently Forgotten and Ignored History

Show poster for the Fisk Jubilee Singers ca. 1910

Asking even the few of us in Nashville who were born and raised here as to why we are called the “Music City” will 9 times out of 10 get you a response that “it has something to do with country music”.  In fact, if you Google it, you’ll find overwhelming information that seems to confirm this misunderstanding, or rather misrepresentation.

The truth is a more remarkable story.  One that has been conveniently downplayed and to this day remains largely uncorrected as there is less profit to be made around the actual origins of the nickname, at least amongst the mainstream Nashville business community.

The first around-the-world tour by a musical act was by the Fisk Jubilee Singers from Nashville’s Fisk University. The tour was in fact a part of a larger effort to help fund the school’s mission of educating people who were formerly enslaved after the Civil War. It is this tour, by these amazingly talented Black performers, that actually put Nashville on the map as a global music center. In fact, it was upon playing for the Queen of England, that she stated the Fisk Jubilee Singers must come from the “Music City.”

While you can find “Music City” on T-Shirts and all sorts of novelty items, plastered across billboards about town, printed in tourism materials, and broadcast on radio and tv, there is virtually no recognition outside of Fisk Campus of the contributions of Fisk Jubilee Singers to Nashville’s status as Music City.  This year the Fisk Jubilee Singers celebrate their 150th Anniversary.

Discussion Question: What stories of historical or musical legacy theft can you share?

Additional Reading:

These examples of Stolen History were compiled by CT3 Program Manager and Associate Dr. Richard Frank as part of CT3 CARES Month 2021.

1Comment
  • Jane Loya Ryan
    Posted at 12:27h, 07 August Reply

    WOW, I just have to say this is an excellent article on history lost — thank you so much for writing and sharing this. I grew up on the horse track as a child and that was in the 1960s —
    I researched and found that Isaac Murphy was the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times, and he was the first black jockey to be inducted in the Thoroughbred racing Hall of Fame, in 1955. While that was before my time at the track (best friend’s dad owned several race horses), by this time, I don’t remember any black jockeys only many as stable hands and some assistant trainers. I remember Secretariat had a black groom, however, he was far more than a groom, he was Eddie Sweat, one of the greatest horseman of all times — he played a huge part in Secretariat (Big Red’s) success and did much more than groom him. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?view=detail&mid=16EEA79B647CC95EBE7916EEA79B647CC95EBE79&q=Eddie Sweat&shtp=GetUrl&shid=1b064ab7-4b19-4a94-9787-7a2bc1ff52c9&shtk=QmxhY2sgSGlzdG9yeSBNb250aDogSW4gaG9ub3Igb2YgRWRkaWUgU3dlYXQ%3D&shdk=QSB0cmlidXRlIEkgbWFkZSBmb3IgRWRkaWUgU3dlYXQsIHRoZSBncmVhdGVzdCBob3JzZW1hbiB0byBldmVyIGxpdmUgaSBvd24gbm90aGluZw%3D%3D&shhk=lj52l12vUKHl%2FwETUzLNeLIG6ODgsL6VHxNaUEn40Zk%3D&form=VDSHOT&shth=OVP.faoNIII1nNCli3axVOw1XAEsDh
    Anyone that new Eddie, would agree, he was simply an amazing horseman, a horse whisperer.

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