“All the Best Jockeys of the West Are Colored”

Maryjean Wall

in How Kentucky Became Southern

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780813126050
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135410 | DOI:
“All the Best Jockeys of the West Are Colored”

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Isaac Murphy, an African American who was born during the Civil War and raised in Lexington, made his career path paralleling the success of Longfellow. He was ranked as the highest-paid athlete in the United States. Toward the end of his riding career, he also became a racehorse owner. Murphy's story illustrates how black jockeys and horse trainers who gained national prominence and respect in the sport eventually found themselves shuffled to the rear of the bus. Black horsemen had never dominated in numbers at racetracks in the North, as they had in Kentucky and the South, but Northerners had afforded them a professional respect. In Lexington, a great fear of “Negro rule” resulted in white supremacist tactics entering the political sphere. Democrats played on these phobias by instilling a fear of “Negro rule” in the white population.

Keywords: Isaac Murphy; Negro rule; Black horseman; Democrats; phobias

Chapter.  11420 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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