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Updated: Mar 5, 2023

Throughout modern history, African Americans have played a crucial role in the success of the U.S. military. This is despite being systematically denied leadership roles and skilled training due to the belief that they needed more qualifications for combat duty. This all changed in 1941 after civil rights organizations and black media outlets put pressure on the Government, which resulted in the formation of an all Black squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama. They would soon be known as the Tuskegee Airman.

The creation, and those who were a part of this all-black pursuit squadron, was commonly referred to as the “Tuskegee Experiment”, which required the Army Air Corps (AAC) program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircrafts. The Tuskegee Airman were a group of pilots, bombardiers, navigators, maintenance staff, and instructors who all did their part of keeping the planes in the air.

Time and time again, the Tuskegee Airman had to prove themselves as capable, if not more, than their white counterparts. Over the course of WWII, they flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa, achieving great feats along the way. By the time they flew their last combat mission, the Tuskegee Airman had destroyed over 36 German planes in the air, 237 on the ground, and over 1,000 rail cars and transport vehicles. This solidified their status as one of the greatest pursuit squadrons in U.S. military history.

The Tuskegee Airman paved the way for cultural change within the military, which led to complete integration by 1948, creating a lasting legacy of great African-American service members.

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

In 1866 an act of congress created six all-black peacetime regiments, which later consolidated into four; the 9th and 10th Calvary and 24th and 25th infantry. Together, these groups were known as the Buffalo Soldiers. For decades historians have argued as to how they came to be known by this name; however, a common theory is that the name was given to the soldiers by the Native Americans they encountered due to their bravery and ferocity in battle, which reminded them of the mighty buffalo they revered. The soldiers considered this to be a great honor. Eventually, they made the image of a buffalo part of the Calvary's regimental crest.

From their inception, the Buffalo Soldiers faced extreme racial prejudice from the Army establishment. Many well-renowned officers at the time refused to command the black regiment even if it cost them a promotion in rank. Additionally, African-Americans could only serve west of the Mississippi River due to whites not wanting armed black soldiers near their communities. Even through this adversity, the soldiers played a significant role in many military actions. In 1892 they played a critical role in defusing the Johnson County War in Wyoming, which pitted farmers against wealthy ranchers and hired gunmen. They fought in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars while playing a pivotal role in border security during the Mexican Revolution.

Even though discriminatory policies diminished the Buffalo Soldiers' involvement in major U.S. conflicts, today, we see their impact in many ways. Due to their exceptional horsemanship, the 9th Cavalry of the Buffalo Soldiers was responsible for training West Point Cadets in riding skills and tactics. Learnings they still use today. They were some of the first national park rangers from 1891 to 1913, tasked with protecting the parks from illegal grazing, poachers, timber thieves, and wildfires.

Faced with extreme racism and prejudice, the Buffalo Soldiers were able to create the most out of hand they were dealt with through sheer determination, and the legacy they left behind continues to inspire us today.

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

Considered to be the greatest American jockey of all time, Isaac Murphy's story is anything but typical. Through his unique riding style, and innate ability to communicate with his horse, Murphy created a lane in a sport that had never seen anyone like him.

Isaac Murphy was born on April 16, 1816, on a farm near Frankfort, Kentucky. Murphy's father, a free man, was a bricklayer, and his mother was a laundry woman. During the Civil War, his father volunteered to join the Union Army. During his service, he was captured as a Confederate prisoner of war and later died in their camp. After the death of his father, Isaac's mother moved them to Lexington, Kentucky, to liver with his grandfather to help provide for her son and have a father figure in his life. One of Murphy's mom's customers was a laundress who owned a racing stable and this is where Isaac met, Eli Jordan, a black trainer at the stable. Eli too a liking to Murphy and eventually let him help break the yearlings. At the age of 14, Jordan decided that Isaac had a natural talent riding horses and decided to put him in a race. Without any formal training, Isaac wasn't able to keep up with the more seasoned veterans. Still, he showed flashes of talent that Eli helped Murphy harnist.

As a rider, Murphy's style showed several signature characteristics. He sat extremely upright on his mount, which allowed observers to easily spot him in a race. He was also known to be very intuitive. He used soft words to communicate with his horse rather than a whip and had a knack for waiting until the very last minute to make his move for the lead. By 1891, having won three Kentucky Derby, Murphy was not only one of the most famous athletes in the U.S., but he was also the highest paid.

After his career, Murphy rode 628 winners in his 1412 mounts, including the three Kentucky Derby winners, four American Derby winners, and five Latonia Derby winners. This made Murphy the winningest American jockey in history, with a documented winning average of 34 percent. In 1955 Isaac became the first jockey elected into the hall of fame, solidifying his spot in horse racing history.

Growing up in a time when slavery was commonplace, Isaac Murphy was a pioneer of black athletes using their talents to help get themselves out of dire situations. Murphy wrote the playbook that many athletes are still following today.

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