LEGEND

      Now in the process of me running my successful barber shop I also wrote a book about, in my opinion, the first afro American child hero. I wrote the book The Legend of Jocko the small afro American boy that was once recognized on lawns everywhere as a racist object. This is a story that I hope will change the racist artifact into a symbol of African- American pride.

      During the Revolutionary War, a free black man Tom Graves joined George Washington’s army. Graves’ 12 year old son, Jocko wanted to go to war to but of course he was too young. Determined to go he went anyway. As Washington was preparing to cross the Delaware River for the battle of Trenton he realized that he could not transport the horses by boat, and that his steeds would have to be waiting on the other side. Jocko volunteered to hold the horses and make sure that they were ready when Washington’s troops arrived. But, during the night Jocko froze to death awaiting the soldiers, never letting go of the reins. His sacrifice spurred the troops onto victory, and Washington was so touched by the boy’s sacrifice that he erected a statue in Jocko’s honor at Mount Vernon. This statue, the story goes, was the precursor to the lawn jockey.

      Jocko’s story has been told many different ways and the details vary by teller. His age changes as does the side of the river that he was on that night. Sometimes he’s holding a lantern sometimes he’s not. The gist of the story remains the same: lawn jockeys are not racist reminders of the days of slavery but monuments to an African American hero.

      The only problem is that no one can find record of Jocko Graves, or for that matter, a statue of a boy at Mount Vernon, but I am a firm believer and I am very determined to bring the story of Jocko to the masses through the children’s book that I self published: The legend of Jocko: Hero of the American Revolution.

      I originally heard the story of Jocko through Earl Kroger Sr. an insurance broker, publisher of a 32 page 1963 children’s book called: Jocko: A Legend of the American Revolution. A copy of his book is held at the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, which also features a wax figure of the frozen child in his exhibit. When Kroger died in 1995, I vowed to keep the story of Jocko alive.

      In 2000 I found a lawn jockey at a junk yard and a few months later another friend sent me another. The second was hollow and I used it as a mold to make other statues just like it. When I had first found Jocko he had red lips, white eyes, and a black face. So I took Jocko and gave him some life. My longtime friend and painter Matthew “Bay Bay” Williams hand painted the new sculptures. The sculptures did not sell well and I felt that was due to the racist connotation that Jocko had received in the past people were just too ignorant to the truth about this young boy.

      In the spring of 2003, I still felt that the story of Jocko had not gotten its due, I with the help of Carolyn Gaither- Ellis and illustrator Gary Phillips we began putting together a children’s book of my own. The book has since been received by book stores, schools, and I have been on Heaven 600 AM, magazines, newspapers, and I have done a number of book signings.

      This is a true story. The fact of the matter is that it has been erased. Joan Martin, co- founder of the great blacks in wax museum likewise feels that the lack of documentation does not mean that Jocko was not there, pointing out that much of blacks’ history has been lost and regardless of the factual bases she agrees that the story serves a purpose. Whatever the facts are it is true that there is some truth to every story. Just like the John Henry legend or the legend of Paul Bunyan there is a moral lesson. Martin also pointed out that lawn jockeys were used in the Underground Railroad to warn escaped slaves of danger, or to signal a safe house by tying brightly colored fabric around the statues arm or by lighting the lantern in its hand. These are great reasons the jockey statue should be remembered.

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