The field breaks from the gate at the start of the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2023, in Louisville, Ky.Andy Lyons—Getty Images

Reckoning With the Kentucky Derby’s Roots in Slavery | TIME

Saturday will mark the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby, which takes place at Churchill Downs. While coverage of the Derby will probably focus on memorable races and moments from the past, this auspicious anniversary is also an opportune time to scrutinize the racist history of the sport and that of the Churchill family after whom Churchill Downs is named.

The story of Churchill Downs begins with the patriarch of the family, Armistead Churchill. Born in 1733, he fought for the Virginia colonists during the Revolutionary War. He later acquired several hundred acres of land in what would later become Louisville, Ky. Armistead used enslaved labor to work the land and when he died, he left some of the property to his youngest son, Samuel B. Churchill Sr.

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