Asked to assist with the research and creation of an exhibit showcasing the black horsemen of Orange County, title not yet determined, I have begun to investigate what material could be available. The sponsors of the exhibit, as well as title and where it can be seen, will all be revealed in due course.
The task at hand is to gather the artifacts and stories. Once that has been accomplished, the actual exhibit will all but design itself. The purpose is to highlight the African American men and women who were integrally involved in the horse industry in this region of Virginia as breeders, riders, trainers, groomers, blacksmiths and track managers or promoters.
Specifically, we are interested in newspaper articles, photographs, and other memorabilia of those engaged in day to day activities as well as the annual race and horse show events. Many of the talented horsemen contracted their skills for the large and affluent racing stables in the county. It was more than a job! There was no denying that a love of the sport coursed through their veins and they possessed an incomparable expertise in their minds and hands.
Not uncommon to find a horse or two in their own backyard. More than another animal to feed it was an opportunity to rise above. Rise above the humdrum, rise above the oppression, rise above the imperfections of life in general. An opportunity to believe in possibilities!
It is a story worthy of the telling. And of course, we cannot do it justice without the personal accounts and anecdotes. The days of great glory and the days of disaster and heartbreak. The memories of days at the races on the Ellis farm; tales abounding from the Shearer stable at Meander and similar yarns from behind the barns at Montpelier are incredibly valuable. We want to hear them all!
I have reached out to several individuals, but I know there are those who have a story that has not yet been heard. Please feel free to contact me and the sooner the better. Contact information is listed below. Thank you in advance.
Previously published in the Orange County Review, April 26, 2018