Cheryl White was only 17 years old when she became America’s first licensed Black female jockey.
Cheryl White was a little-known jockey “jewel” who most people were unaware of. She raced horses like just a few of the elite did during that time. There were not many African-American jockeys at the time White was racing horses.
Despite the scarcity of black jockeys in the industry, White went on to become one of the first black female jockeys to win five thoroughbred races in “one day” at a major track. She made her mark while riding Ace Reward, her mother’s horse.
It was difficult for black jockeys, but it was far more difficult for females, particularly African American women. White won 750 events throughout her 21 years of racing. She had had a five-race winning streak at Appaloosa. The African-American Sports Hall of Fame honored her with an Award of Merit in 1990.
After it was determined that White had made a $2 bet while acting as an official, her license was suspended. She went to Gamblers Anonymous and rode horses to support herself while she was suspended.
The African-American Sports Hall of Fame honored her with an Award of Merit in 1990. White completed the California Horse Racing Board’s Steward Examination in 1991. She has since worked as a race official at numerous tracks. Lexington, Kentucky’s new racetrack will celebrate African-Americans in racing, and White will be included.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, White died on September 20, 2019 at the age of 65, in Youngstown, Ohio. “Cheryl was never a great self-promoter, and wasn’t concerned with the politics of racing,” her brother, Raymond White Jr., said in a press release announcing her death. “She just did her thing. She didn’t understand what she had accomplished. I don’t know that she understood her significance, or place in history.