Caution: This may be a difficult post to read. But, please read anyway.
I have grown up having been taught that the lawn jockey is a symbol of racism towards Black Americans. In fact, my father told me that there were laws passed in the 1960s banning the display of lawn jockeys, and if they were displayed, they had to be painted white.
Whenever I see a lawn jockey, I shudder. In fact, there is a lawn jockey of a slave prominently displayed near the home of the parents of a childhood friend of mine. Whenever I would go to her house to play, I would have to pass by that house and see that lawn jockey. Talk about stealing someone’s joy.
There appear to be conflicting accounts as to the origin and symbolism of the lawn jockey. One is the account with which I and many other Black Americans are well-acquainted (see above). The other is this account. And then there’s this account.
However, after having conducted an Internet seach re: the history and meaning of the lawn jockey, I learned, to my utter dismay, that there are actually companies which manufacture and sell these things. As you scroll down the page, you will see two such examples of “hope and freedom.”
Tell me this: How are “Jocko” and a watermelon- eating caricature of a black child symbolic of hope and freedom? They’re even described as “adorable”. Yuck!
You want one more example? To be called a lawn jockey is not complimentary for a Black American. Check out The Field Negro’s blog for those on Lawn Jockey Alert.