The National Chronicle of African American Horse Industry

In the future, this space will feature monthly blogs highlighting African American men and women who had significant careers in the horse industry, and the importance of the Kentucky Association track in the establishment Lexington’s historic East End neighborhood. But before those begin, we wanted to let you know about the most significant and exciting projects ever attempted to recognize the nation’s African American men and women who worked in the horse industry from enslavement to the present – “The National Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry.”

– Bill Cooke, President, Phoenix Rising Lex

Introducing the Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry

The Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry will be an interactive website which will build on the International Museum of the Horse’s exhibit Black Horsemen of the Kentucky Turf. Its goal is to house and display photos, documents, artifacts, and oral histories of African Americans who have worked, and continue to work, in equine industries, allowing users to connect the past to the present. The Chronicle is the museum’s newest project and is funded by a Museums for America, Institute for Museum and Library Services, Learning Experiences grant.

The idea for a website sprung from the realization that the exhibit’s capacity for including individual stories is limited, as is its ability to reach diverse audiences. The Chronicle project will cross boundaries of time and place. It will include all time periods, including the present day; all horse professionals, not just prize-winning jockeys; workers with all breeds, not just Thoroughbreds; in all areas of the country, not just Kentucky.

Building the Chronicle

The museum’s first (and ongoing) job is to focus on understanding the various needs of the website’s future users. We need input from descendants, teachers, genealogists, and researchers to make the Chronicle a useful tool. We are currently focusing on connecting with local groups and individuals with a significant interest in using this website to research their own ancestors, contribute information about overlooked individuals, or share modern-day stories.

Next, we will develop the first version of the website with existing research that is primarily Kentucky-centered, with a focus on the history of Lexington’s East End. After testing this site with various audiences, we will expand the scope to include nationwide collections on all aspects of African Americans in the horse industry. If all goes as planned, the fully functional national Chronicle will go live in late 2020!

Contributing to the Chronicle

This mission — to build a website that will display items and stories of African American horsemen and women — is dependent on memory holders sharing their knowledge. We welcome all community members with memorabilia, documents, diaries, photos, and objects to bring them to be digitized at a History Harvest. Contributors will keep their items, and will be provided a digital copy of the scanned or photographed items. The museum will also keep a digital copy for inclusion in the Chronicle website after it is built. If an individual wishes to donate items to the museum, a separate assessment procedure will be followed.

The first two History Harvest events will be held in Lexington’s East End neighborhood on April 13 and May 18, 2019. Community partners for the event include Phoenix Rising Lex and the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center. This is a significant location to hold the History Harvest, as the East End was home to the Kentucky Association racetrack, a source of steady employment for the influx of African Americans into Lexington following the ratification of the 13th amendment in 1865. Our hope is that long-time residents who have been holding onto stories, memorabilia, and photos will share their treasures so we can all deepen our understanding of American history for all of its people

The museum plans to hold more History Harvests in additional communities. We also offer the option of recording oral histories at the museum or visiting contributors at their home. For more information, see http://imh.org/education/chronicle/history-harvests.html.

You are also invited to share your information at any time by emailing ChronicleInfo@ky.gov or by calling (859) 259-4279. We’d love to hear from you!

– Karen Lanier, Digital Project Mgr., The Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry

This project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services