Moses Thompson was a horse jockey from North Carolina during the Great Depression. He was interviewed for the Federal Writers' Project as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal[1]


Early life and background

Moses Thompson was born in Raleigh, NC on September 29th, 1880. His father was a shoemaker and a master mason. His mother was married twice (her first husband died) and had three children from each marriage. Moses got along well with most of his brothers and sisters, but he tended to get along best with his step-brother, Ed. Ed worked as a wash boy at the Emoryville Race Track in Oakland, California. Moses went to school from the age of seven until he was eleven years old, yet he boasts that thought his schools were not as “up-to-date” as others, he felt as if he learned more in those four years than other did in their many years of schooling[2]


Moses's job was to clean the horses, exercise them, and make sure they were happy. Due to constantly being around the animals on such a frequent basis, when the main jockey was unable to compete in a race, Moses was chosen to take his place. Since he was only chosen becaues he knew the horse and someone needed to ride it for the race, he was not expected to win, so it came as a surprise when Moses actually won the race. Moses attributed his winning to the fact that he weighed a mere 85 pounds which made is so that the horse didn’t have to carry practically anything.[2]

Later life

After his jockey career finished, he moved back to Raleigh, NC where he stayed for the remainder of his life. He worked as the operator of an elevator at the Masonic Temple Building for fifteen years, then as a janitor for Carolina Power, and even a trucker for Norfolk and Southern Railing at a later point in his career. Finally he settled down and married Martha Yellowday [2]

Shortly after, they had four children, two boys and two girls. Moses Thompson claimed at the interview that none of his boys would be jockeys because they were too big (since Moses, now a full grown man, still only weighed 103 pounds)[2]

Social issues and issues of voice

Moses grew up in an era of racial segregation commonly known as the Reconstruction Era. This is the time period after the Civil War when racial strains were at their peaks. African Americans frequently were treated as inferior in the workplace and paid wages much lower than those of their Caucasian counterparts.[3] A key factor that made it challenging for Moses to find a job was that he had very little education. With this lack of education, it was impossible for him to gain any type of job such as lawyer, stock broker, or banker. His situation was the same as many other African Americans of the same time period. Fortunately, Moses found a way out- becoming a jockey. Moses was very successful at racing horses due to his size and weight which luckily paved him a way out of poverty.

Not only did this pave a way for him out of poverty, but it allowed for him to live a near-luxurious lifestyle, especially for an African American of his time. Moses threw parties with Alcohol and girls, both of which cost a sizable amount of money. So, even though Moses was an African American, he was rather popular with Caucasians since he was fairly successful. Moses never complained about racial issues throughout his entire interview, in fact, he even once referred to himself as “the happiest little Negro” ever, [2] this usually being a derogatory term during that time.


  1. DeMasi, Susan Rubenstein "The federal writers' project: a legacy of words.(Bibliographic Essay)(Essay)". CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. 49.7 2012-03-01. 1195(11).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Robert O. King. "Moses Thompson.", in the Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 05 May 1939. Print
  3. Terry, David Taft. "Dismantling Jim Crow: Challenges to Racial Segregation, 1935-1955." Black History Bulletin. 1 2004: n. page. Print. <>.
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