Hidden History: Cheryl White Was The First Black Female Jockey. Her Story Is Finally Being Told


Young Black Women riding a horse

In 1971, when she was only 17-years-old, Cheryl White made history as “the first licensed Black female jockey” in America.

Just before she died of a heart attack in 2019, White told a reporter “I just wanted those gates to open.” Even though White was referring to the starting gates, throughout the course of her career, she opened many gates for the Black jockeys who would come behind her.

Unfortunately, even though she literally blazed a path on her horse, White’s story is relatively unknown. Her accolades and accomplishments, which include a two-decade long plus career with “750 winning rides in several disciplines,” are largely unmentioned in the history books.

But White’s family is on a mission to ensure that White’s name is rightly honored and remembered in the annals of history.

Raymond White, Jr., the younger brother of the trailblazing athlete, co-authored a book for middle schoolers entitled “The Jockey and her Horse” with Sarah Maslin Nir, a reporter for The New York Times.

Over the weekend, White, Jr. traveled to Minnesota to impart his sister’s story with an equestrian program for BIPOC youth.

CREW Urban Youth Equestrians is a program for young people of color in the Twin Cities, that strives to enable members to “reach their full emotional and academic potential while opening career opportunities within a caring equine Community that builds Relationships, Empowerment and Well-being (CREW).”

Three childhood friends, Jenny Benton, Kenatia Gilmer, and Chauntel Allen, “co-founded the CREW in order to create a space for urban American descendants of slaves, Indigenous/Native, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and all youth of color in Saint Paul and Minneapolis to discover confidence and power in themselves through horses.”

At Saturday’s event during Women’s History Month, White Jr. gave a firsthand account of his sister Cheryl’s “groundbreaking journey, shattering barriers and defying expectations.”

Why has White’s story gone largely untold before now? “Whenever I hear about icons and she’s never mentioned, I don’t know why,” stated White’s nephew Raymond White, III. “It makes you hesitate to think it’s rooted in racism. It almost feels like it’s the cheap answer — but it’s the answer.”

Unfortunately, White’s story isn’t the only piece of neglected Black history. Since the first Kentucky Derby in 1875, “Black jockeys and horsemen dominated thoroughbred racing…[t]hrough 1903 right before the Jim Crow era pushed them out.”


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