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Black Maestro: The Epic Life of an American Legend Hardcover – April 25, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060537299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060537296
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,319,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

New York Times writer Drape (The Race for the Triple Crown) illuminates a little-known figure in the history of American sports: Jimmy Winkfield, the last black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Like that of more well-known black performers Paul Robeson and Josephine Baker, Winkfield's successwas a mixed blessing: racism and injustice ultimately force Winkfield to flee his native country for Russia, where he witnesses the revolution and lands in Paris with other Russians. The youngest of 17 children in a Kentucky sharecropping family, Winkfield's passion for horses sets in early, and his slight stature bolsters his desire to be a jockey, "where blacks and whites rubbed shoulders without cross words or a stinging backhand to upset the harmony."Black jockeys such as "the legendary slave jockey Simon ... who helped drive General Andrew Jackson from the racing game" and Isaac Murphy, who was so successful, he built himself a $10,000 house before the turn of the 20th century. While Drape's attempts at novel-esque narrative occasionally read cliché, this well-researched biography of Jimmy Winkfield and the larger chapter of America his life highlights is a valuable and entertaining read. 16 page b&w photo insert.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The prospects for a small black man born in the American South in 1882 were grim. That Jimmy Winkfield, the seventeenth child of a sharecropper, grew from such barren ground to become the toast of three continents is nearly incredible. Winkfield's gift was a unique ability to understand and communicate with Thoroughbred racehorses. He parlayed that gift into worldwide success as a jockey, winning consecutive runnings of the Kentucky Derby in 1901 and 1902 before fleeing America's racism for even greater fame in Europe and in Russia. Along the way, he married three times (twice to white women), took two mistresses, fathered five children, made and lost fortunes, and was a firsthand witness to many of the events that shaped the twentieth century. Drape's exhaustive research allows him to tell Winkfield's story in detail and in context. While fully appreciative of Winkfield's accomplishments as a jockey, a horseman, and a man, Drape doesn't gloss over the jockey's many transgressions against those he loved, and that is what makes this biography not just a tribute but a life. Dennis Dodge
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

I am a reporter for The New York Times who got to return to high school in the heart of America with my wife and 3-year-old son to write the NYT Bestseller "Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen. Last year, we went to college - to the United States Military Academy to write "Soldiers First: Duty, Honor, Country & Football at West Point." The Academy truly is a national treasure and the young men and women who go there are our best and brightest. In Army football, I found the good guys in college sports. Check out www.joedrape.com for more about "Soldiers First."
About me: I am a Kansas City native and a graduate of Southern Methodist University. I previously worked for The Dallas Morning News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I live with my wife and son in New York City.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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It is a truly amazing account of one man's life.
L. Scites
This story is so full of history, adventure, drama, suspense, and the reality of personal tragedies and suffering.
E. Mitchell
The book is also and extraordinary ride through world history via Jimmy Winkfield's life.
Wink

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Grant H. Pace on May 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book has it all. An amazing story, one that rivals Forest Gump for eccentric adventures. A well wrought and meaningful look at racism, and one man's equanimous manner of dealing with it. And the sure hand of Joe Drape, whose horseracing coverage for the New York Times has no rival in the industry. A must read. It's got Seabiscuit's depth and incredibly detailed research, with even more heroic heights. It is amazing that this story is not a part of racing, and our country's lore. But thanks to this book, my guess is it becomes just that.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on August 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
What a story! Born one of 17 children in a poor, black, Kentucky farm, Jimmy Winkfield won the Kentucky Derby twice. He tried again in 1903 but failed and his career was over. Except that by moving to Europe and Russia he continued as a top rider in the Sport of Kings.

He was doing exceedingly well when the 1917 Revolution came along to disrupt. So what he did then was to collect some 250 horses and drive them to Poland. Later he moved to Paris and was living there when the Germans came in 1940. He returned to the United States where he again became a victum of the blatent racism of the time. Again he was able to persevere and prosper by turning broken-down thoroughbreds into money-making racehorses.

This is an exceedingly well researched, very well written book that brings a little known sports figure a small amount of the recognition he deserves. This book follows 'Wink: The Incredible Life and Epic Journey of Jimmy Winkfield (ISBN: 0071418628)'

When asked why he picked this subject, the author responded: 'Jimmy Winkfield lived a life that transcended sports or horses. He witnessed lynchings, felt the constraints of Jim Crow laws. He was a rich man with a white valet in Russia. He romanced beautiful women on three continents, dodged bullets and the Bolsheviks to save some of the world's finest thoroughbreds in a trail drive that makes 'Lonesome Dove' look like a walk in the park. He was chased out of France by the Nazis and, in 1961, had to demand the right to enter a party that he was invited to at Louisville's Brown Hotel. This wild arc was all made possible because of Jimmy's singular gift for communicating with racehorses.'
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. Scites on April 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is so well written that it got me hooked on it right away and I am not a racing fan. The author, Joe Drape really captured the essence of Jimmy Winkfield and brought his story to life in this book. After reading this book I was left with the firm understanding that man can accomplish so much in a lifetime; it is up to us to make something of our lives regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. It is a truly amazing account of one man's life. Jimmy Winkfield is a legend and I would not have heard about him if it were not for this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. W. Einstein Jr. on July 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jimmy Winkfield, black jockey, and two-time Kentucky Derby winner fled Jim Crow on US racing circuits for the race tracks of Poland, Russia, Vienna and later Paris around 1910. This bio draws the exciting story of horse racing in America and abroad, starting in the late 19th century when racing was America's most popular spectator sport. The picture of continental racing are terrific. The characters - jockeys, trainers, owners, here and abroad - covered a world I knew nothing about. The author obviously knows his racing. I'd have given this book another star if the picture of Jimmy Winkfield was more of a piece, and if the author had resisted sugar-coating him. All told Black Maestro is a terrific story, well told.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Stone on May 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
the sport of horseracing owes much to the African Americans who have nutured its athletes. Rarely, however, are those unsung heros shared with the public.

This well written and very well researched book shares the life of one of the sport's more colorful participants and gifted partners to equine athletes - Jimmy Winkfield.

The pages kept turning, the story was fascinating, and the author did a lovely job in both pace and content.

If you have any interest in the "sport of kings" and those who make it come to life, this book is an important read. For those who just want to read the story of a gifted athlete whose genetic makeup destroyed his promise on American soil, this will inspire you as to Jimmy's fortitude and once again bewilder you at the mindset that eventually took his craft out of his home country.

put it on your read list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Craig Connell on November 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of Jimmy Winkfield is an amazing one, and honestly told. I say the latter because, although the author obviously wants to inform us about this great unknown athlete, he's honest enough to tell us the man's faults, too. Overall, he wasn't a very honorable man yet you can't help but root for him.

His story will leave you shaking your head in amazement. I think it's safe to say no American athlete ever led a stranger life, and that includes Babe Ruth. Winkfield was one of the best jockeys in American history, but he had his color going against him at that time. He went to Europe and.....well, the stories are incredible!

As of my review, this hardcover book is on sale here for five bucks. You have to be kidding! What a bargain. This is great reading if you any interest in people, not just horse racing.
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