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Meet the Black Jockeys Who Helped Create the Kentucky Derby

Black Jockeys who won the Kentucky Derby

After the Civil War, most horse trainers, grooms, and jockeys were Black men. In fact, of the 28 winning jockeys of the first Kentucky Derby, 15 of them were African American. However, according to the Los Angeles Times, this didn't last long because once the Jim Crow era began in the early 1900's, African Americans were banned from the sport.
In fact, after the year 1922, no Black jockeys appeared in the race for nearly 80 years until the year 2000 when Marlon St. Julien rode in the Derby. The most recent African American jockey to ride in the Derby was Kevin Krigger, who finished near the bottom of the pack in 2013.

But this doesn't erase the history of the Kentucky Derby or the fact that there were definitely Black jockeys who helped created and popularize it.

For example, Oliver Lewis, a Kentucky native who was born into slavery in 1856, rode across the finish line to first place in the inaugural Kentucky Derby in the year 1875.

James "Soup" Perkins is another one. He too was born and raised in Kentucky, and in 1895, at the age of 15, he became one of the youngest jockeys ever to win the Kentucky Derby.

Finally, there was Isaac Burns Murphy, who competed in the Derby 11 times and won in 1884, 1890 and 1891. He was known as one of the best jockeys to ever race.

The history of the Kentucky Derby is undeniable!