Black Wins First Kentucky Derby

Oliver Lewis, a black jockey, riding Aristides, one of two horses entered by H. Price McGrath, galloped to victory in 1875, before more than 10,000 excited, cheering fans, in the inaugural running of what would become known as the Kentucky Derby!

May 7th, 2001, will mark the 137th running of America’s premier horse race, the Kentucky Derby. This race is run annually the first Saturday in May, at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky.  This ritual, which heralds the arrival of Springtime, has been held here since 1875.  This rite of Spring brings to this Kentucky city many beautiful (Belles) women, wearing wide brimmed, colorful hats. People from all walks of life, some drinking frosty mint juleps, made , of course, with genuine Kentucky Bourbon, to a place where some of the world’s finest and fast blooded Thoroughbred horses are assembled for the ‘Run for the Roses’.

The powerful role which blacks have played in the development of horse racing in these United States of America is virtually unknown.  However, when one considers the large numbers of blacks in this industry, it appears to be a natural progression, simply because of the assigned duties of the slaves and servants to maintain the livery stable. Where they gained knowledge, developed skills and insight into the breeding, handling, care, and overall well-being of these valuable horses, which represented a huge investment to their masters.

Oliver Lewis, the jockey astride the winning Thoroughbred Aristides, was black, one of fifteen riders up for this race, contrary, to the often told story that there were two white jockeys in this race 137 years ago.  Edward Hotaling’s The Great Black Jockeys states William Lakeland on Ascension and Cyrus Holloway – riding Enlister – were white.  The author calls it, “pretty much an African American parade to the post”.  Thirteen out of fifteen isn’t bad, thus confirming the preeminence of black jockeys in that first race.

Fame is fleeting (no pun intended), a fact Lewis would soon discover. Despite the fact that he brought home the winner, before 10,000 excited, cheering fans, set a record time of 2:37 3/4 for the mile, he would not fare as well as Aristides, the horse, who even today is honored by a statue. The horse which is ever present in the Winner’s Circle, where the TV cameras capture the horse, jockey, trainers, and other race officials gather to present the Blanket of Roses, the trophy and the purse, in the Clubhouse Gardens is the horse, but not a word about the black jockey who rode him past the winning pole.

For items which commemorate the achievements of African American men and women from all walks of life, visit my website.  To learn more about Oliver Lewis and other black jockeys who dominated horse racing in the early years of the sport, check out  The Great Black Jockeys.

(c) John M. Green 2011     


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Military History



Soldiers and the 6th U. S. Infantry built the camp in 1869. The true story of  these  two black Cavalry Regiments have never been told. The settlement of the West, perhaps, would have been prolonged much longer without the courage of these brave black troopers. These men fought warring Indians,cattle thieves, gun runners, outlaws, bootleggers, people who wanted to settle Indian land before it was opened and Mexican bandits.

This does not include the harsh weather, prejudice and the hand me down equipment, worn-out horses, blankets, saddles and weapons, many from the better known 7th Cavalry led by General George Custer. When not fighting Indians they were building the frontier post. It was from the labor of these black troopers that the foundations for many future cities were laid. A prime example was Lawton, Oklahoma which grew because Camp Wichita was scouted in 1865, located on Cache Creek and Medicine Bluff, near the Wichita Mountains.


Fort Camp Wichita was renamed, in l1869, Fort Sill, in honor of General Joshua W. Sill, a classmate of Colonel Grierson , who was killed in the Civil War. Fort Sill was located in Indian Territory until 1907, when it came into the Union as OKLAHOMA.  The heavy duty construction of the camp fell to the soldiers of the 10th Cavalry,with the soldiers of the 6th Infantry assisting.


Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper’s first duty assignment was with the 10th U. S. Cavalry at Fort Sill Indian Territory. This is extremely important due to the fact he was the first black to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1877. He became the first black officer to command troops in the  regular Cavalry.  In addition to commanding his troops he was ordered to have ditches dug to drain the swamps in the camp to reduce the threat of malaria. His fellow white officers ridiculed his efforts and called them “Flipper’s Folly”, until the first rains came and drained the swamps. The joke was on those officers, because Lt. Flipper was a civil Engineer who knew how to construct the ditches. Those ditches are now listed as a National Historic Landmark, where my brother and I caught frogs after a rain when we lived on the Post, proper, near old Gate One. Unfortunately, Lt. Flipper was brought up on charges by white officers and cashiered out of the United States Army.  Long after he was dead, he was exonerated of the charges . Very interesting story. Read it.
(c) John M. Green 2011.

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Welcome to My Blog

Some fifty years ago, I became a peregrinator with the idea to call attention to little known facts about contributions to history which were made by black people.  Since that time I have grown, my horizons have greatly expanded and my research now contains contributions which people have made to history.

I want to challenge you to look at history which is largely not taught anywhere, but is there if you seek it.  Open your mind, learn, enjoy knowledge for knowledge’s sake.  I am going to take you for an exhilarating, exciting, provocative journey!  This trip is not for the timid…you have been warned.

John M. Green is my name. I was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, a small town in the southwestern part of the state, about 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City and about 45 miles north of Wichita Falls, Texas. Lawton’s growth was attributed largely to Camp Wichita, which later became Fort Sill, Indian Territory.

The faculty at Douglass High School, a wonderful, dedicated, knowledgeable group of teachers, provided me with more than adequate preparation to meet and compete in the world.  I will never forget them. It was here I received 12 years of Negro history from stern taskmasters, who made sure we obtained a good education.

Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri, was my second choice of a place to study journalism, because I could not attend the University of Oklahoma, at Norman where segregation was alive, well, living and rigidly enforced, I attended Lincoln University, who made a huge contribution to my education, however, the idea of complete Academic Freedom was not a reality.  Students could not freely question faculty members when they had opposing ideas.  This was suicide!  More than once I have heard the question…”Are you trying to sharp shoot me?”  No! Just trying to look at problems from a different perspective.  This was troubling to me because, I held several national offices with the Student Christian Association and was able to visit many White universities, where I was able to observe students and faculty members who stood toe to toe, challenging each other and I never heard the sharp shooting remark.  It was then I realized I was not getting all the information I could obtain at my institution.

Three years later, my money ran out, there were no Pell Grants in those days.  I worked on the railroad for a time, got married, was drafted into the U.S. Army.Where I served in the Adjutant General’s section of the Big Red One Division at Fort Riley, Kansas where an ugly racial incident took place, although, I had more time in grade, than any of the soldiers, I was not respected.  This left me with many unanswered questions about these United States.  I used the GI Bill and returned to my journalism studies at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, where I graduated with a B.A. in Journalism in 1976.

My desire was to work for myself. I opened a soft ice cream store in Detroit, refused to sell chocolate, everybody thought I was nuts, this allowed me to sell exciting flavors to my customers. Many who had never eaten ice cream from pure flavors, without fruit or nuts, such as butter pecan, black walnut and the like.  Business was good to me.  I operated my store for 20 years.

Got into publishing books on Black history in Michigan, with the reissue of a wonderful historical tome, The Michigan Manual of Freedman’s Progress, authorized by Act 47, Public Acts 1915 – if you want to check it out, you can find the revised version on my website.  This book was 45 years old when I was introduced to it and began the venture and that is just what it was.  The Negro history I had learned in Lawton served me very well.  In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!  Michigan has been most inadequate in their teaching of Black history, not only to Black students, but to students of all races.  I now have more than 51 years in this area, which I gained in Michigan with Negroes in Michigan History.  Welcome to all who consider history a dull subject, you are in for an exciting ride.

(c)John M. Green 2011

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This blog will examine different aspects of  history from a fresh perspective.  It’s under construction right now — be sure to check back in early April for updates!

While you’re waiting, please feel free to visit my website: African American Historical Products.

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