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Race Horse Men recaptures the vivid sights sensations and illusions of nineteenth century thoroughbred racing America's first mass spectator sport Inviting readers into the pageantry of the racetrack Katherine C Mooney conveys the sport's inherent drama while also revealing the significant intersections between horse racing and another uintessential institution of the antebellum South slaveryA popular pastime across American society horse racing was most closely identified with an elite class of southern owners who bred horses and bet large sums of money on these spirited animals The central characters in this story are not privileged whites however but the black jockeys grooms and horse trainers who sometimes called themselves race horse men and who made the racetrack run Mooney describes a world of patriarchal privilege and social prestige where blacks as well as whites could achieve status and recognition and where favored slaves endured an unusual form of bondage For wealthy white men the racetrack illustrated their cherished visions of a harmonious modern society based on human slaveryAfter emancipation a number of black horsemen went on to become sports celebrities their success a potential threat to white supremacy and a source of pride for African Americans The rise of Jim Crow in the early twentieth century drove many horsemen from their jobs with devastating conseuences for them and their families Mooney illuminates the role these too often forgotten men played in Americans' continuing struggle to define the meaning of freedom


10 thoughts on “Race Horse Men

  1. says:

    This book is not only thoroughly researched and documented it is a really great read The writing is entertaining and the lives of these black horsemen make for fascinating stories The book also gives an excellent summary of the culture and politics of a large swath of US history


  2. says:

    When I won it was all right but when I lost and when not on the best horse they would say 'there that n is drunk again' — Legendary black jockey Isaac MurphyI didn't expect Katherine Mooney's Race Horse Men How Slavery and Freedom Were Made at the Racetrack to be so relevant But in the wake of the NFL protests it's amazing how patterns repeat themselvesBlack jockeys trainers and other horsemen were in a strange place even as slaves their irreplaceable professional skills put them in high demand and allowed them unusual geographic mobility and economic opportunity However white owners and employers utilized these relative privileges to augment black horsemen's oppression holding over them the perpetual threat of losing those privileges and restricting how they could be exercisedBlack horsemen who spoke up against ill treatment—in the sporting social or political world—would be accused of gross ingratitude and every vice assigned to black people by racial stereotype laziness disrespect incompetence stupidity Oh and they'd lose their jobsSounds too familiarRegarding the book it's less a work of analytical rigor than a well researched portrait of race and America through the lens of horse racing In that respect it's excellent Horse racing may seem a somewhat tangential subject but as a tangent it touches on many topics matters of social class and networks of wealth animal husbandry science interstate commerce and tensions national and regional politics the press and


  3. says:

    Thorough summary of the contributions of African Americans to horse racing the most important sport of the 19th century Slavery and Reconstruction were favorable eras for Black horsemen than Jim Crow when Black jockeys were systematically excluded The only weakness is the reintegration of the sport starting in the 1960s which remains incomplete was barely addressed


  4. says:

    solid history