Library

Keeneland Library to Expand Reach of Popular Exhibit, The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers

Sep. 08, 2023

Keeneland Library has scheduled a number of events for the remainder of 2023 to expand the reach of its groundbreaking exhibit, The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers, which highlights the lives and careers of 80 African Americans working in the Thoroughbred industry from the mid-1800s to the present. Activities include a traveling exhibit, a new book and Breyer model of pioneering Black jockey Cheryl White and an appearance by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks, author of bestseller Horse.

The Library’s free exhibit, The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers, which opened Feb. 23, features one-of-a-kind photographs from Keeneland Library collections that capture moments across a variety of careers of these horsemen and -women, while biographical vignettes honor their lasting legacies. Due to demand, the exhibit and its on-site youth and adult programs in the Library have been extended through Dec. 8. 

In September, the Library’s traveling exhibit will be launched in Lexington’s East End neighborhood – site of the Kentucky Association track, which operated from the late 1820s through 1933 and the home of many Black horsemen and their families – with several educational programs and donated book events. The first host is the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center, which will run the exhibit through Oct. 6. 

“I am grateful to work with the Lyric,” said Roda Ferraro, Exhibit Curator and Incoming Library Director. “What better place to launch than in Lexington’s East End, the home of the oldest Turf organization in the country and the historic epicenter for pioneering Black horsemen and their families that evolved around the Kentucky Association track after the Civil War.”

The next community site to host The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers will be the Central Branch of the Lexington Public Library, where the free exhibit will run Oct. 11 through Dec. 3. 

Other The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers events

Now: Companion book available
The companion book to The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers is a chronicle of nearly 200 years of local history, featuring the contributions of more than 100 African Americans in Thoroughbred breeding and racing. From race track superstars to behind-the-scenes caretakers, the compelling volume showcases select stories of the countless African Americans who forged their way in Kentucky and beyond from the era of slavery to the present and made the racing industry what it is today.   

The book is available at the Library and The Keeneland Shop (in store and online) for $10. All proceeds will benefit the Keeneland Library Foundation. 

Sept. 11: Companion book release

Keeneland Library will begin to donate copies of the new companion book to community and industry organizations, including the Ed Brown Society, Legacy Equine Academy, Frankie’s Corner Little Thoroughbred Crusade, Locust Trace AgriScience Center, Phoenix Rising Lex, African Cemetery No. 2, Charles Young Center and the Lyric. 

Sept. 15: LexArts Gallery Hop at the Lyric (5-8 p.m.)

Everyone is invited to celebrate the launch of the traveling exhibit in Lexington’s East End. Incoming Library Director Roda Ferraro will deliver the evening’s educational program, and the first  100 Gallery Hop attendees will receive a free copy of The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers companion book. 

Sept. 19: “Meet the Authors” free event at Keeneland Library (6:30-8 p.m.)

This event features Pulitzer Prize nominee Sarah Maslin Nir and co-author Raymond White Jr. presenting their new book, The Jockey & Her Horse. Spotlighted on “Good Morning America,” the release, for readers 8 and up and horse lovers of all ages, shares the story of Cheryl White, the 17-year-old who made history as the first Black woman to ride and win a race in this country. Books will be available for purchase for $17. A brief program will be followed by a book signing. Event RSVPs to [email protected].

Sept. 20: “Meet the Authors” free event at the Lyric (6-7:30 p.m.)

After an opening program in the Lyric’s Community Room, attendees will have an opportunity to meet Nir and White. The first 100 attendees under the age of 18 will receive a free copy of The Jockey & Her Horse along with free General Admission passes to Keeneland’s Fall Meet. The Library and authors will also visit East End community schools that day to connect upper elementary students to free copies of the inspiring story. 

Oct. 21: Cheryl White Breyer Sets at Keeneland

During Sunrise Trackside, a free, family-friendly event at Keeneland from 8-10 a.m., Keeneland will spotlight Cheryl White’s historic career as a jockey. Children will have a chance to try on a replica of White’s silks, and fans will have a chance to win Keeneland Breyer sets featuring a figure of White, the model horse Jetolara (her first winning mount) and a copy of The Jockey & Her Horse.

That day, The Keeneland Shop and Keeneland Library will host a signing with Raymond White Jr. from 1-3 p.m. Cheryl White Breyer sets and copies of The Jockey & Her Horse will be available to purchase. 

Nov. 18: An Evening with Geraldine Brooks at the Keeneland Sales Pavilion (6:30-8 p.m.)

Keeneland Library will host Pulitzer Prize winning-author Geraldine Brooks, who will discuss her popular 2022 novel, Horse, which is centered on the famous 19th century Thoroughbred Lexington and his enslaved groomBrooks conducted research for the critically acclaimed book at Keeneland Library. Details to follow on Keeneland.com/library.