Voice of African American equestrians sought for new chronicle

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African American equestrians are in the spotlight with the launch of a digital history platform at the International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry is a new website designed to increase awareness, education, and access to African American history. The site builds upon information discovered for the museum’s permanent exhibit, Black Horsemen of the Kentucky Turf.

Its goal is to uncover, collect, document, and make accessible the history of African Americans in the horse industry. It relies on researchers finding archival materials, as well as family members sharing their stories, photos, documents and memorabilia, and is inviting African Americans who currently work or have worked with horses, in any discipline, anywhere throughout the US to contribute their history to this remarkable historical collection.

The digital archive allows contributors to tell their personal stories without letting go of family treasures. Oral histories are archived at the museum’s partner repository, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky.

In 2018, the museum began website development with input from the community on what content should be included and how to make the content accessible to the public. With the support of Phoenix Rising Lex, a grass-roots organization that promotes the cultural history of Lexington’s early horse racing industry, contributions for the website began in the spring of 2019 with the museum hosting History Harvests at the Lyric Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky.

The “Undefeated” Asteroid, with Ansel (his trainer) and Brown Dick (jockey), 1864, by Edward Troye. Trainer Ansel Williamson is on the far right.
The “Undefeated” Asteroid, with Ansel (his trainer) and Brown Dick (jockey), 1864, by Edward Troye. Trainer Ansel Williamson is on the far right. Source: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Paul Mellon Collection

Funding for the website was provided by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Museums for America, Learning Experiences grant and the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation. Additional funding was allotted from the Kentucky Foundation for Women Art Meets Activism Grant to assist the museum with the hiring of five African-American women to write narratives for the website.

The mission of the International Museum of the Horse is to provide education on the relationship between humans and horses throughout history. Ten teacher representatives were selected to work with the museum to create educational modules based on the website’s content. These modules include American history from the perspective of men and women who have worked with horses across eras that span from 1619 to the present day.

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