The Prince of Jockeys
The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy
Publication Year: 2013
Isaac Burns Murphy (1861--1896) was one of the most dynamic jockeys of his era. Still considered one of the finest riders of all time, Murphy was the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times, and his 44 percent win record remains unmatched. Despite his success, Murphy was pushed out of Thoroughbred racing when African American jockeys were forced off the track, and he died in obscurity.
In The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy, author Pellom McDaniels III offers the first definitive biography of this celebrated athlete, whose life spanned the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the adoption of Jim Crow legislation. Despite the obstacles he faced, Murphy became an important figure -- not just in sports, but in the social, political, and cultural consciousness of African Americans. Drawing from legal documents, census data, and newspapers, this comprehensive profile explores how Murphy epitomized the rise of the black middle class and contributed to the construction of popular notions about African American identity, community, and citizenship during his lifetime.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Download PDF (301.8 KB)
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Download PDF (496.9 KB)
Download PDF (30.2 KB)
Download PDF (62.2 KB)
Isaac Burns Murphy was born in the midst of dramatic changes tak-ing place in mid-nineteenth-century America. He lived through the “second American Revolution,” which gave people of African de-scent recognition as citizens, and he died at the end of the same cen-tury, when those hard-fought gains were shattered by the adoption ...
Part 1: Roots
1. Into the Bluegrass
Download PDF (118.8 KB)
Less than a century before Isaac Murphy was born, the institution of slavery was aggressively expanding beyond the borders of the state of Kentucky. Prior to the Revolutionary War, explorers, fron-tier families, and land speculators pushed their way into the western boundaries in search of lush, fertile lands where they could culti-...
2. America Bourne
Download PDF (108.8 KB)
...ty, Kentucky, on the Pleasant Green farm owned by David Tanner, America Murphy gave birth to a baby boy she named Isaac.1 Or at least this is what we can glean from the little hard evidence that ex-ists. How America came to be on the farm, where exactly she gave birth to her son, who attended her, and whether the boy’s father, ...
Part 2: Rise
3. Seizing Freedom
Download PDF (154.0 KB)
Almost immediately after Abraham Lincoln was elected president in been building for nearly forty years, since the Missouri Compro-mise, and the Republican Party’s platform of limiting the expansion of slavery into the Federal territories sent a shock wave through the United States. Historians may argue that the causes of the Civil War ...
4. From the Silence and the Darkness
Download PDF (153.1 KB)
In the summer of 1869 the highly anticipated total eclipse of the sun enshrouded the earth in darkness for what seemed to some like an eternity. Scientists had foretold of the “startling and impressive” sight that would appear in the sky on August 7.1 Still, this natural occurrence turned frightful and disconcerting to those who had a ...
5. The New Order of Things
Download PDF (119.1 KB)
On the day after New Year’s 1870, three to four feet of snow blan-keted central Kentucky—the heaviest snowfall in the state’s history. Whiteness enveloped the countryside, and in the clear, predawn sky following the storm, an aurora borealis was visible as far south as Lexington.1 This was an unusual occurrence in the Bluegrass, and ...
Part 3: Revelations
6. Learning to Ride and Taking Flight
Download PDF (230.0 KB)
By his fourteenth birthday, Isaac’s apprenticeship in the stables of James T. Williams and Richard Owings began to pay off. In the be-ginning, no one could have imagined that the little boy from Lex-ington would become the greatest representative of horse racing the state—maybe even the country—would ever produce. What is even ...
7. An Elegant Specimen of Manhood
Download PDF (327.5 KB)
In the early spring of 1881, Isaac found himself largely alone, hav-ing lost his mother in 1879, followed by the passing of J. W. Hunt-Reynolds, his mentor and employer, in the fall of 1880. Other than Eli Jordan, who had been a father figure to Isaac since childhood, he had no family connections. There is no evidence that his moth-...
8. In This Peculiar Country
Download PDF (270.6 KB)
In January 1890 most blacks in Kentucky, as well as in the rest of the nation, were aware of the growing tensions between blacks and carried a front-page article explaining the reasoning behind a Sen-ate bill proposing that blacks be forced to emigrate to Africa. Essen-tially, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Mathew Butler, believed that blacks ...
9. A Pageantry of Woe
Download PDF (50.1 KB)
On the morning of Sunday, February 16, 1896, a veil of dread de-scended on the stylish two-story, red-brick Victorian home at 419 East Third Street in Lexington, Kentucky. Four days prior, in the turf, struggled to take his last breath and then died. He had been sick for more than two weeks with a flulike illness, but the possi-...
Download PDF (50.7 KB)
Putting a life into perspective in a way that is not only meaningful but also revealing of the choices and decisions made in the context of events, intended or otherwise, can be a difficult proposition. This is especially true when there are no personal papers or archives to consult. In this case, gathering the threads, shards, and jagged pieces ...
Download PDF (31.0 KB)
This project began soon after I completed my doctoral studies at phy until I began researching the importance of sports to African Americans during the mid- to late nineteenth century. Though Mur-phy’s life and career were the focus of the first chapter of my disser-tation, the story was far from complete. After consulting with my ...
Download PDF (30.0 KB)
Download PDF (243.8 KB)
Download PDF (124.0 KB)
Download PDF (27.7 MB)
This document may be the only evidence of Isaac Murphy’s birth at the David Tanner farm: the birth of an unnamed black male was recorded on January 6, 1861. (Kentucky, Birth Records, 1852–1910, Ancestry.com; original data from Kentucky Birth, Marriage, and Death Records—1852–1910, microfilm rolls 994027–994058, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort) ...
Page Count: 552
Publication Year: 2013