African-American horsemen played a vital role in shaping early American turf history, and the Kentucky Derby is no exception. The history of the Kentucky Derby and African-American horsemen are intertwined. The Derby and Churchill Downs owe a great deal to these men who helped shape America's greatest race. Thirteen of the 15 riders in the first Derby were African-American, while African-American reinsmen won 15 of the Derby's first 28 runnings.
James Winkfield was a two-time Kentucky Derby winner On June 25, 1980, the 11 African-American jockeys who rode a total of 15 Derby winners between 1875 and 1902, were honored by the NAACP and the Lincoln Foundation. A plaque commemorating the occasion is now in the Kentucky Derby Museum's collection.