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Miles Dean- Short Bio

New York To California Trail Rider
Fee: Please contact for more Info
Mr. Dean Commutes from New Jersey



Cross-country rider visits Downs
Teacher promoting black history

By Charlie White
The Courier-Journal

one With his dreadlocks spilling from under the brim of his cowboy hat, Miles Dean pulled into Churchill Downs on the spur of the moment as the sun began to set last evening.

Officials at the historic track were quick to accommodate the 58-year-old elementary school teacher, who is just over two months into his journey of riding horseback from New York to Los Angeles to educate people about African-American history. He teaches social studies and language arts in Newark, N.J.

"If you think your history begins as being a slave, what do you have to build upon?" Dean asked. "I think one thing that holds African Americans back is the lack of awareness of who they are as a people, as a culture."

After noticing a lack of black history in textbooks during his 22 years of teaching, Dean took a leave of absence from the classroom to make the trip. He said he has since logged about 25-30 miles a day, riding up to seven hours a day five or more days each week.

He hopes to reach California by February, which is Black History Month.

Dean said he visited the grave of black jockey Isaac Murphy last week in Lexington and yesterday went to Louisville Cemetery, where jockey William Walker is buried.

Among those greeting Dean on Churchill’s backside last night was Jerry Fife, vice president of the Project to Preserve African American Turf History, a local nonprofit that wants to build a museum dedicated to the history of black jockeys.

Dean and Fife both have studied the history of black jockeys, who declined sharply in number in the early 1900s.

Dean is a member of the New Jersey-based nonprofit The Black Heritage Riders.

"I feel I have a debt to repay to my ancestors," he said. "And I have to find creative ways to repay that debt."

Early last night, workers at the Kentucky Derby Museum notified Churchill officials that Dean was in town and in need of a place to stay.

Julie Koenig Loignon, vice president of communications at the track, said she knew of Dean’s journey from news reports and was able to find a phone number for him online, so she gave him a call.

About 6 p.m. Dean and his driver/documentarian Joyce Walker, pulled their truck and horse trailer into Gate 5 on Churchill’s backside.

They unloaded Sankofa, Dean’s 10-year-old Arabian stallion, who was eager for dinner and a bucket of water.

Dean, who arrived in Lexington about a week ago, will backtrack today as he heads to Georgetown.

He will meet with Dave Stefanic, whose family runs Classic Farm in Georgetown. Stefanic said last night he hopes to find a suitable horse for Dean from his stable of about 200 mountain saddle horses to help ease the load on Sankofa.

After his trip to Georgetown, Dean will head back to Louisville, where he plans to stay again tonight, sleeping as usual in the bed in his trailer.

To follow Dean and Sankofa on their trip or to make a donation, visit

Reporter Charlie White can be reached at (502) 582-4653.