What Did the Kentucky Derby Have to Do with the Supreme Court?

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most famous horse races in the world. Every year, thousands of people travel to Louisville, Kentucky, to attend the event and celebrate the beauty of horses and the American spirit.

But did you know that the Kentucky Derby is inextricably linked to the Supreme Court of the United States? The story behind the story is interesting, and it provides an excellent example of how a sporting event can affect society for the better.

The Birth of the Classic

The Louisville annual derby was first held in 1875, and it continues today as one of the major sporting events of the year. The first race was simply called the Derby, and it was won by a chestnut colt named Baldheim. The race was named after the owner of the winning horse, and the annual event was named after him as well: John W. Hall.

John W. Hall’s enthusiasm for the sport inspired him to organize an annual horse race in Louisville. His goal was to create a race to rival the ones held in England, and he started by inviting horse owners from across the Atlantic to come and compete. Over the years, the Kentucky Derby has attracted famous athletes and sports personalities, such as Jack Dempsey, Billie Whitelock, and Enrico Caruso.

The sport’s international popularity grew, and today, the Kentucky Derby is one of the most cherished events of the year in Louisville. Each year, the media draws inspiration from the race and its famous participants to create documentaries, write books, and even compile galleries of race photos.

One of the most famous American icons of the 20th century was also involved in the early days of the Kentucky Derby. In 1905, a horse named Man o’ War set a new world record of 1:59.4 for the 10-furlong (1.23 km) race, which made him the first jockey to ever win the triple crown of Thoroughbred Racing – a feat no jockey has yet duplicated. The famed “Mare’s Leg” ride by Billie Whitelock, in which the horse leaps over a seated jockey, is named after the Man o’ War race.

An American Icon

The story of Man o’ War is truly incredible. The colt was bred in Kentucky and raced in New York before being sold to an Englishman named George Saxon for $13,000. Saxon took Man o’ War to England, where the horse set new world records in the following years. Eventually, Man o’ War returned to the United States and became a major racing star. He died in 1932, at the age of 27, but his story lives on through books, films, and even t-shirts.

Many people consider Man o’ War to be the greatest horse of all time. He is certainly one of the most recognizable racehorses of all time, with his white coat and brown spots.

A Race For Justice

It wasn’t long after Man o’ War’s death that the American Civil Liberties Union, commonly known as the ACLU, expressed interest in the case. At the time, the Scottsboro Boys, a group of nine African-American men accused of raping a woman in Scottsboro, Alabama, were on trial. Most of the men in the group were under the age of 21 and denied the right to legal counsel. They were convicted and sentenced to death.

The national attention brought about a change in venue for the trial, and all public appearances were removed from the accused men. However, the men were still denied counsel, and a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union was allowed to attend the trial only as a spectator.

The trials were a harrowing experience for the men and their families. The women and children in the community had to suffer through the traumatic events as well. The community support for the accused men was shown through vigils and rallies, organized by the ACLU. Three of the men died in prison, and the rest were eventually pardoned or had their convictions overturned.

After the conviction, the ACLU turned its attention to the Kentucky Derby and the issue of racial discrimination in juries. They were concerned that the all-white juries in Scottsboro were influencing the outcomes in other cases of alleged racial discrimination. The ACLU wanted to make sure that juries were selected based on their justice, and not on the basis of their skin color. To achieve this goal, the ACLU filed a motion at the Man o’ War trial asking for “a fair cross section of the community.” The trial judge agreed, and from that point on, all juries were to be selected based on a list of qualified voters.

An Influential Court Case

In a groundbreaking decision in 1931, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that the all-white juries in Scottsboro were a cause for concern. In the case of Norris v. Alabama, the Court ruled that the defendants in a criminal case must be allowed to choose their own jury, regardless of race. In a 5-4 decision, the Court stated that “appearance of justice” was paramount, and that the goal of jury selection should be to “secure fair trials without risk of injustice.” In other words, the objective should be to create a jury for each case that is representative of the community, and that provides a fair opportunity for the defendant to be acquitted.

This decision effectively overturned previous convictions, and it is certainly considered one of the major turning points in the Supreme Court’s history. The case drew national attention to the issue of racial discrimination in jurisprudence, and it inspired later Supreme Court decisions that also involved sports. In the 1944 case of Smith v. Texas, the Supreme Court overturned the criminal conviction of a man who was sentenced to death after being convicted of raping a white woman. In the 1967 case of Alexander v. Louisiana, the Court ruled that the exclusion of athletes from juries violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Finally, in the 2000 case of State v. Causey, the Court held that the use of potential jurors’ names and photographs on the internet without their consent constituted a violation of their privacy.

An Example of Inclusivity

The story of the ACLU in Scottsboro illustrates how the Kentucky Derby has inspired social change. In 1937, the organization filed a motion asking the Louisville police to stop wearing military uniforms and to stop arresting citizens while in civilian clothes. The goal was to create an inclusive atmosphere in the city of Louisville.

The Derby has always been a source of pride for the city of Louisville and for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. However, this example of social change, which eventually led to the end of military dictatorship in Latin America, demonstrates how a sporting event can impact society for the better. The next year, for the first time in its history, the city of Louisville did not hold a Derby because of the continued threat of racial violence in the area. This was likely due to the national attention the city had gained from the case. It made people more aware of the issue of race, and it forced the organizers of the Derby to change the name and location of the event. It was originally planned to be hosted by the University of Louisville, but they cancelled the event after the race organizers refused to include any black participants.

The city of Louisville worked hard to heal the racial divide in the area, and the event was held again in 1939. This example shows the importance of having cultural differences included in mainstream society. Instead of separating people based on their skin color, the event organizers worked to include everyone, regardless of their race or social status.

A Historic Rivalry

Another important factor behind the growth of the sport of horse racing in the United States was the development of large-scale rivalries. The Kentucky Derby is widely considered to be the biggest rivalry in American sports, and it has attracted many famous participants and competitors over the years. There is a constant battle for supremacy at the end of each season, and the winner is decided by a final day of racing that is eagerly followed by the participants, the fans, and the media.

For decades, the event was not held every year because of the threat of racial violence in Louisville. The Civil War still impacted society in the 20th century, and it was not until 1947 that the Derby returned to its usual schedule. In the interim, the New Jersey and Florida Derbies were held in place of the Kentucky Derby. In 2019, the 100th running of the Kentucky Derby was celebrated in Louisville. More importantly, it was a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the American people.