FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the state prepares for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, it's also confronting a tough part of its history.
"I can't imagine a better way to start Derby week than ensuring Derby is truly available for everyone," said Governor Andy Beshear on Monday.
And that wasn't always the case.
Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, many jockeys were African American. But despite all that work, they were pushed out of the industry.
"After World War I, African Americans were pushed out of the sport due to Jim Crow and racism. They were only hired as stable hands or support workers - despite building the foundation of this storied industry," said Beshear.
Now, Kentucky is working to bring African Americans back to the sport. It's also celebrating the accomplishments of African American horsemen. That's where a new proclamation comes into play.
Gov. Andy Beshear signed a proclamation naming April 25 – May 1 Ed Brown Society Week in the commonwealth, recognizing African Americans’ contributions to horse racing.
The Ed Brown Society is named after Edward D. Brown, who was born into slavery in Lexington in 1850 and later became one of the most accomplished African American horsemen in the history of thoroughbred racing.
The proclamation specifically honors Edward D. Brown, who was born into slavery but later became a successful horse jockey, trainer and owner.— Karolina Buczek (@Karolina_Buczek) April 26, 2021
The proclamation names the week of April 25 Ed Brown Society Week in Kentucky.@LEX18News pic.twitter.com/LJdKzyMPFF
"To see the record that he was able to accomplish not only as a jockey, trainer, as well as owner is just very significant," said Greg Harbut, the chairman of the group.
But the group doesn't just want to honor the past. It provides mentorship to the next generation of African American Kentuckians in the horseracing industry
"Outside of educating people about the history of African American contributions - is [the goal] ultimately to lead to the workforce, internships, jobs, job opportunities for young folks to enter this multi-billion-dollar industry," said Raymond Daniels, the president of the Ed Brown Society.
So, this is a step forward. But the governor says he realizes there's a lot more to do.
"Yes, a whole lot more needs to be done," said Beshear. "A whole lot more needs to be done at every level of society and in every sector of society. So, I think today is a good step, but it shouldn't be the last step."