Edited Press Release
Kentucky Educational Television (KET), a state network of PBS member stations serving the Commonwealth of Kentucky, will air 'The Legacy of Black Horsemen' an hour-long documentary that details the story of Black jockeys, trainers, grooms and exercisers in the 1800s who played an important role in the Thoroughbred industry.
The program documents how Black horsemen were subjected to discrimination and cruelty throughout much of their lives. During slavery, many won the faith of their white owners and were trusted with major financial and horse training decisions. In the wake of the Civil War, many Black horsemen opted to stay in the industry, which led to a near dominance on the turf, with African American jockeys winning more than half the Kentucky Derby races leading to the turn of the 20th century.
But that dominance would come to an end with the Plessy v. Ferguson decision and the rise of Jim Crow laws. Black jockeys faced violence on the track from white jockeys, and African Americans were pushed out of the saddle. Eighty years would pass before a Black jockey would again ride in the Kentucky Derby.
Utilizing contemporary interviews, reenactments and historical photographs and paintings, 'The Legacy of Black Horsemen' brings these stories to light, showing how African Americans played an indispensable role in establishing Thoroughbred racing as America's first national pastime.
'The Legacy of Black Horsemen' airs Monday, Nov. 20 at 9 p.m. ET and again Thursday, Nov. 23 at the same time. The show may also be viewed on demand at KET.org and on the PBS app.
The program is funded in part by the KET Endowment for Kentucky Productions.