He was a journalist who shed more light on the contributions of African-American slaves than many professional historians and institutions – documenting, for example, the black slave labor that built the nation’s Capitol.
Thanks to his research and book – The Great Black Jockeys: The Lives and Times of the Men Who Dominated America’s First National Sport – the 13 black slaves and their descendants, who were among the 15 jockeys in the first Kentucky Derby in 1875, live on, rather than being forgotten by history.
Ed Hotaling, a six-time Emmy Award winner, who died on June 3 on Staten Island at age 75, is widely considered as having done his country a great service – one that its comfortable if not smug academia couldn’t be bothered to do.
Although he was white, “He just grew up without a sense of racial difference,” said his son Greg Hotaling, who said his father died of heart failure.
Born Oct. 16, 1937, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Edward Clinton Hotaling’s career included assignments abroad and, beginning in 1977, a focus on black culture and history during a 25-year reporting and broadcast career in Washington, D.C. His wife of 25 years, Marthe Vincent Hotaling, died in 1995.
Another son, Luc, survives, as well as two brothers, and a grandson.
Hotaling is noted for airing in 1988 the late sports commentator Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder’s comments that blacks were better athletes than whites because their slave ancestors had been “bred to be that way,” and that “there’s not going to be anything left for the white people” in sports. Like some civil rights leaders at the time, Hotaling said he opposed Snyder’s subsequent dismissal though he was appalled by the remarks, according to the New York Times.
It was while researching a feature story on the 200th anniversary of the construction of the White House and Capitol that Hotaling in 2000 made what some dismissed as a routine discovery: hundreds of monthly Treasury Department payment slips showing that hundreds of African-American slave laborers were forced to work erecting the buildings.
Of 650 workers on the projects between 1792 and 1800, the Times reported, 400 were slave carpenters, masons and quarry men whose owners received $5 a month for their work.