Sports in the Time of Slavery

In what sports were blacks involved before the Civil War?

Before the Civil War, free blacks and slaves engaged in numerous sports. Horse racing, boat racing, and pedestrian events drew large numbers of crowds, both black and white, and the events were well-mixed by gender. Blacks were especially involved in horse racing, and the best jockeys and horse trainers were black. Most jockeys in the South around 1800 were diminutive slaves who had grown up around horses and knew how to handle them well. In the North, however, English jockeys were imported, or local whites were used as jockeys. Around 1806 “Monkey” Simon became the first known black jockey. He had been called the best jockey of his day, and he commanded more than a hundred dollars per ride for himself and his master. In 1814 General Andrew Jackson is said to have imported a crack black jockey named Dick to race his horse at a local event. The horse won, beating a favored racer.


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