NewsCovering Kentucky


Lexington's African American cemetery hosts author of new Isaac Murphy book

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Posted at 5:57 PM, Jul 04, 2024

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — On July 7, Lexington's African Cemetery No. 2 is hosting author Dr. Katherine Mooney for a book event at Fasig-Tipton. Her new book is titled "Isaac Murphy: The Rise and Fall of a Black Jockey". It’s a focus of her interest in horses and 19th-century American history.

"The more I learned about those stories particularly the story of Isaac Murphy, the more I realized that you could see in one person's life these incredible changes that had happened in 19th century America,” says Mooney.

Yvonne Giles is the cemetery's education coordinator. Murphy was originally buried in African Cemetery No. 2. She tells me that people know Murphy's legacy but might not know as much about his early life and family's influence.

Giles says, "People talk about him all the time but it's more surface information. Dr. Mooney has done lots of research. She started researching this book during COVID."

Mooney adds, "The things that I found that I don't think get talked about as much are particularly from his early life and particularly the story of his mother who to me is a main character of a significant portion of the early part of the book."

Mooney explains that Murphy's mother was a young woman at a turning point in American history -- living through slavery and reconstruction. She says his mother made sure there was a history of their family's story. Giles says there's a lot to know about many of the Black men of Lexington.

Giles shares, "The men that we talk about in our cemetery, all 186 of them including Isaac Murphy, were at the critical junction of when the industry just blossomed."

Giles and Mooney want people to learn how important Lexington was, shaping post-Civil War history and how important Lexington’s Black community was in shaping the horse racing industry.

Giles says, "It is the 140th anniversary of Isaac’s multiple wins which is a record that no one else has beat."

"When we honor Murphy, we always want to continue to honor the people who have stayed in the sport and who have continued to shape it over multiple generations,” says Mooney.