Only in the South

Have you ever seen the yard statue of the little black lawn jockey? You know the one with the red hat and red vest? Oh, I mustn’t forget to point out the red lips which guarantees to assure you of his “blackness”. The lawn jockey would probably have on his face and hand, the blackest paint in history to help stand out against his “Lilly white” shirt and pants. Well as a child I would only see these type lawn statues while visiting family in the south. I had never seen those little guys in the Chicago where we lived at the time. Though I never asked my parents what the black lawn jockeys stood for, I had made up in my young mind that they represented some form of racism, slavery perhaps. To be honest, this is the first time I have questioned the little men in my adulthood. The black lawn jockeys are a rarity  in this day. You may find him in an antique shop or all white and not painted at all. When I began my search for information, I started by typing “black lawn jockey” on the Google website. Low and behold all the information that popped up. Legend has it that a little black boy by the name of Jocko Graves, was General George Washington stable boy who wanted to help out in the war. Being too young though, Washington and his men needed to go across the Delaware River so he agreed to let lil Jocko hold the horses and lantern. Well, Washington and his men took a tad bit longer than expected. When they returned, loyal Jocko was frozen stiff still holding the lantern and the horses. General Washington was so hurt that when he made it home, he immediately had a statue built in the remembrance of Jocko and he even had some sculpted for his friends. I even read a story where Jocko the lawn jockey was used during the underground railroad to let the slaves know if it were safe for them to stop by or not according to the direction he was turned or if a ribbon was wrapped around his arm. If these stories are true then Jocko Graves needs his place in history instead of a place in the yard where unsuspecting people could assume the worst. With that being said, if the statue was so noble, why paint Jocko in such a derogatory light? Maybe we can hold a candle light vigil at Nathan Bedford Forrest Park and place little Jockos around the park? Only in the South would we celebrate a young boys misfortune and death with an awkward looking lawn statue but build an even better story of how he came about. Well, maybe its not only in the South, but this is what I have witnessed. Legend or b.s,the world may never know. Good try though.

16 thoughts on “Only in the South

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