Oliver Lewis

Oliver Lewis Oliver Lewis (1856-1924) was the first African American and the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.

The first Derby was held at the Louisville Jockey Club on May 17, 1875.

Oliver Lewis, who was just nineteen at the time, was the jockey for a horse called Aristide. Aristide was not expected to win. Chesapeake, a colt from the same stable and owner was favored to win the race.

The plan was for Lewis to set the pace and tire out the other horses, which would then open up the race for Chesapeake.

When the horses came to the last kilometer, Lewis looked for Chesapeake. When he realized the horse was too far back to catch up, Lewis pulled Aristide ahead and won the event.

The Kentucky Derby is the premiere event in the sport of horse racing. Thirteen of the fifteen jockeys in the first Derby were African American. In the early years, Black jockeys dominated the event and won fifteen of the first twenty-eight races.

Larry Doby

Larry Doby
Larry Doby was the second African American to play major league baseball and the first to play in the American League.

Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina on December 13, 1923. He moved to New Jersey and attended Eastside School in Paterson where he played baseball, football and basketball. After high school he attended Long Island University.

Doby joined the Negro Baseball League in 1942 and played with the Newark Eagles. He left the Eagles to serve in the United States Navy during World War II. After his military service he rejoined the Eagles and in 1946 led the team to the Negro League championship.

In 1947, a few weeks after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was recruited by Bill Veeck and became a member of the Cleveland Indians. Though not as widely reported, Doby experienced the same racism and discrimination that Jackie Robinson faced, and like Robinson he persevered and became a key player on his team.

Doby helped the Indians win the 1948 World Series, and in 1952 and 1954 was the league’s home run leader. He was also the first black player to hit a home run in a World Series game.

In 1998, after being overlooked for many years, Doby was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He died in 2003 in Montclair, New Jersey.

NOTE: In 1997, I had the honor of working with the Paterson Museum on the overdue exhibit, “Larry Doby- Silk City Slugger: First in the American League.”