12 years a jockey

The Forgotten History Of African-American Jockeys

Although African-American jockeys may be a rarity now, in the early days of racing in the United States, they were prominent. Slaves in the south grew up on farms, working in stables, and when racing became an organised sport in the early 19th century, plantation owners wouldn’t hesitate to put their slaves on their horses’ backs.

But as was the case with so many other segments of American life, racism pushed black jockeys out of the saddle – literally and figuratively – and by the early part of the 20th century, they had virtually disappeared from America’s biggest racetracks.

From 1792 until 1882, the Washington Race Course, a one-mile loop around today’s Hampton Park, featured the finest horse racing in the South. Successful breeders relied on the abilities of their slaves in raising, training, and riding their thoroughbreds. After working as jockeys, a few slaves became respected trainers in their own right.

Fast forward almost 100 years from the beginnings of segregation and there are very few black jockeys. When Marlon St. Julien rode the Derby in 2000, he became the first black man to get a mount since 1921.

Sketches From The Washington Races, In October 1840 By An Eye Witness.


This unusual plate with lithographed rhymed quatrains beneath depicts a horse race in which two jockeys compete at breakneck speed

First edition. Folio. Three large hand-coloured plates drawn and lithographed

Equestrian Books & Works on Paper

Explore a curated selection of equestrian books and works on paper, in honour of this year’s Royal Meeting at Ascot, “five days of world-class racing, fashion, tradition and fine dining”.  There should be something here for all lovers of equine splendour, even the neigh-sayers…

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