Thanks for Mike Klingaman's article, which focused on Kevin Krigger and his aspirations to break the over 100-year absence of African American jockey winners at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes ("With the weight of racing history," May 16). One quibble: The article gives the impression that African American jockeys emerged during Reconstruction, when as Mr. Klingaman writes "the sport was young, agrarian and accepting of former slaves and their kin who rode the animals they'd once cared for."
On the contrary, African Americans, both free and slave, basically dominated horse racing from the 17th century up to Reconstruction. Yes, slaves rode in races, which allowed them to travel and acquire some degree of social prestige. Those black jockey sculptures that fronted many a Southern (and even Northern) lawn (later lambasted as racial stereotype in 20th century) are actually a notable historical reference.
For a variety of reasons, both economic and racial, African American participation in racing virtually disappeared, as Mr. Klingaman notes, after Jimmy Winkfield's win at the Derby in 1902. His biography illustrates why African American's lost their previous dominance of the track (as jockeys). That said, kudos to Mr. Krigger who will be the seventh black jockey to saddle up for the Preakness.
Sharon Patton, Baltimore