Pellom McDaniels III Examines America's First Sports Superstar In His Biography of Isaac Burns Murphy, the Prince of Jockeys
May 14, 2014
Isaac Burns Murphy was the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times, and his overall 44 percent win rate remains unmatched. He was also once the highest-paid athlete in the United States, earning close to $20,000 a year at his peak in the late 1880s.
And he was an African American.
Biographer Pellom McDaniels III - former defensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs --explores Murphy's story in a discussion of his book The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
McDaniels has written the first definitive biography of Murphy, 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.
The book points out that African Americans dominated the racing world in the 19th century. In the first Kentucky Derby, 13 of the 15 riders were black, and of the initial 28 runnings of the Derby, African American jockeys won 15.
But with the legal recognition of segregation in the late 1890s, black riders found themselves being forced off the track by resentful white jockeys. Those who dared to ride often found themselves boxed in by competing horsemen; often they were run into - and over - the rails.
Drawing from legal documents, census data, and newspapers, McDaniels' 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 short, 34-year lifetime.
McDaniels is faculty curator of African American collections and assistant professor of African American studies at Emory University. He received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for The Prince of Jockeys.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP at kclibrary.orgor call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.