He had a remarkable sense of dignity and self-worth at a time when African-Americans were encouraged to believe they were worthless. That made him a great man in the truest sense of the word.
That’s how Patsi B. Tollinger describes Jockey Isaac Murphy, the subject of her biography PERFECT TIMING. But Patsi didn’t know about Isaac’s strength of character when she started the project.
The 32-page book has only 900-words, but Patsi spent eleven years writing it, visited seven libraries and museums and reviewed nearly 80-thousand pages of information. Five years after publication, she’s is still regularly talking about Isaac, and she’ll continue for years to come.
How do you get so hooked?
I stumbled across one particular historic photo, says Patsi. The picture confounded me. Here’s the scene: Six men are dressed in fine suits and hats, wearing the old-fashioned ‘bling’ of the 1890s (pocket-watches). The date on the picture is August 1890, and even though some states actually had laws forbidding interracial socializing, five of these men are white and one is black. The lone black man is Isaac Murphy, and as I soon learned, the picture was taken at a party given in his honor. From that one picture, I got the feeling that Isaac was an extraordinary man who, in some ways, triumphed over the racial prejudice that was rampant in the late 1800s. I wanted to get to know him.
And now we can, too.
Next Wednesday: What Isaac's biographer learned from him and why it matters.
I'm fascinated to discover little-known stories of history. Stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
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