Remembering Cheryl White, the First Black Female Jockey

The wrestle to lift White’s profile has deepened the household’s appreciation of not simply her skills, however her father’s: Raymond Sr. started his profession as a horse coach in 1927, and endured over the course of an period when many bleachers and backstretches had been segregated. In 1932 as a coach, he entered a horse in the Derby — his first of two.

“Black folks back then were able to clean up horse crap and walk horses and do the menial tasks. You weren’t in charge of somebody’s investment,” mentioned Nikki White, who’s married to one in every of Cheryl’s nephews, Raymond III. “And he had horses in the Derby and he had horses in the Preakness — that takes a level of respect that people of color didn’t get back then.”

The profession path was usually fraught. Married to a white girl, Raymond Sr. usually listed his spouse as the proprietor of his horses to keep away from controversy. When Cheryl was born in 1953, her dad and mom agreed her father wouldn’t be part of her mom at the hospital so nobody would know she was married to a Black man. On her little one’s start certificates, beneath race, she wrote “white” in an effort to guard her daughter, her son Raymond Jr. mentioned. After her dying, White scattered her mom’s ashes at every leg of the Triple Crown.

As she grew up, Cheryl confronted each internalized racism — she loathed that she was the one sibling with “bad,” or textured hair, her brother mentioned — and exterior: When she rode, typically she heard slurs as her horses galloped by.

At the begin of her profession, regardless of her expertise, she had hassle discovering mounts. Her first huge breaks got here, by necessity, on her father’s personal horses. “They can’t really say it’s experience,” White mentioned to a reporter in 1971, expressing frustration at the lack of rides out there to her after she’d earned her license. “It has to be either the fact that I’m a girl or the fact I’m black.”

Yet as her star rose, White appeared at pains to claim that, even in the period of the girls’s liberation motion and rising Black political and social prominence, she was not making an attempt to make a press release. She was there to trip.

“First black woman jockey waves no Banners — just rides,” reads a 1972 headline in The Los Angeles Times.

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