Week of May 14-20
1885—Erskine Henderson, an African-American jockey, wins the Kentucky Derby on “Joe Cotton”—a horse trained by Alex Perry—an African-American trainer. Henderson was the sixth Black jockey to win the coveted race. Indeed, Black jockeys and trainers dominated the Kentucky Derby from 1875 to 1902. However, while some of the reasons are not entirely clear, it appears that as the race became more and more prosperous, Black jockeys and trainers were forced out.
1970—A student protest on the campus of Mississippi’s Jackson State University leads to a massive confrontation with local police authorities. When the smoke cleared, two students had been shot and killed and another 12 injured or wounded. Reasons given for the protests ranged from opposition to the War in Vietnam, racial tensions and anger over the National Guard killings of White students on the campus of Kent State University earlier in the month. The university memorialized the disturbance by naming the area where it took place “Gibbs-Green Plaza” after the two students who were killed—Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, 21, and James Earl Green, 17.
1985—In a confrontation with the Black Nationalist back-to-nature group MOVE, Philadelphia police drop an incendiary device on the group’s home and headquarters. The decision to bomb had been apparently approved by Black Mayor Wilson Goode. Eleven MOVE members, including five children, were killed. The only adult survivor was Ramona Africa. More than 60 homes in the surrounding area were burned to the ground. It was never fully clear why the decision to drop the bomb was made.