Learn The Hidden Black History Of The Kentucky Derby At These Louisville Sites
Photo Credit: Magnifical Productions

Photo Credit: Magnifical Productions

Learn The Hidden Black History Of The Kentucky Derby At These Louisville Sites

Kentucky Derby , Louisville , united states
DeAnna Taylor
DeAnna Taylor Apr 29, 2021

It’s that time of year again. Time to get your best church hat, dress, and for the men, a dope tailored suit. Yep, it’s Kentucky Derby weekend.

While many people enjoy the annual weekend event for the upscale vibes and amazing cocktail receptions, you can also use the weekend to learn yourself something. (Shoutout to older Black folks) The Derby, although often times hidden, is steeped in Black History— including the introduction of the race’s first Black jockey since 2013, Kendrick Carmouche. They are even slating him to win.

“As a Black rider getting to the Kentucky Derby, I hope it inspires a lot of people because my road wasn’t easy to get there, and I never quit,” Kendrick Carmouche said in an interview wih ESPN. “What I’ve been wanting all my career is to inspire people and make people know that it’s not about color. It’s about how successful you are in life and how far you can fight to get to that point.”

If you have are heading to Louisville or Churchill Downs this weekend, here’s how you can immerse yourself in Kentucky Derby Black History.

Learn about Black Jockey Oliver Lewis

Lewis was the first Black Jockey to win the Derby in 1875. The crazy part, he never competed in the race again after his win. He instead went on to write charts that helped other Jockeys with their race strategies. His writings are still being featured today. There is a statue of the horse Lewis rode that year, Aristides, at Churchill Downs. You can find a mural dedicated to Lewis in the Aristides Lounge as well.

Visit the final resting place of Black jockeys and trainers

Although it’s not in Louisville exactly, it’s only a short one-hour drive away. Why not take a little road trip too? Lexington’s ‘African Cemetery No. 2’ is the burial place of several of the Derby’s Black jockeys and trainers including Lewis and later winner, Isaac Murphy. Many of the original gravestones have been damaged, but you can still visit the historical graveyard.

Celebrate Black award-winning horse trainer, Oscar Dishman

Head to the Kentucky Derby Museum for the Black Heritage in Racing exhibit which displays a plaque awarded to Oscar Dishman. Dishman was one of the best thoroughbred trainers of the 1970s and his career spanned four-decades. He trained several stakes winners. The museum is also home to four additional artifacts of Black Derby history including the schedule from 1875, when Oliver Lewis won his historic race.

Have an old-fashioned in honor of Tom Bullock

This isn’t directly Derby related, but you are in the Bourbon capital. Tom Bullock, was the son of an enslaved man, who later became a bartender in some of Louisville’s most elite clubs, including the Pendennis Club. Rumor has it that he is the inventor of popular cocktail, The Old Fashioned. But, the history books don’t officially give him credit. You can find a mural honoring Bullock on the front windows of Sway, located on the first floor of the Hyatt Regency at Fourth and Jefferson streets.