Black-faced lawn jockey creates controversy among neighbors

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — As of Friday, a black lawn jockey statue has been removed from a local lawn. Some think it’s just part of history, and others think it’s part of bad history — that distinction caused controversy among neighbors in Newport News.

10 On Your Side got an email that reads: “I have to see it everyday on my way to work, which bothers me. Our neighborhood has never been divided, why start now?”

WAVY/Walter Hildebrand
WAVY/Walter Hildebrand

So WAVY.com started looking into the problem on Madison Lane. The email was sent by a neighbor, who does not want to be identified. We interviewed him where at his workplace.

“It hurts my heart to go to work everyday and have to see that … it brings my mood down and that sucks for me,” he said.

Photos: Black-faced lawn jockey creates neighborhood stir

10 On Your Side went to the house where the statue sits on the front walk. The renter showed up with groceries in hand and said the reason he has the statue is because it was a gift. But his neighbor said the lawn jockey has been at the home for years, although unpainted until the current renter moved int a few months ago.

“It was all white, as it was bought from the store, and it amazed me how he took attention to actually painting it, the care he took to paint the face black, the lips red,  the eyes white,” the neighbor said.

WAVY.com asked the renter if he understands why some might find the lawn jockey offensive, even racist.

“All they had to do was say something, and I would have put it away,” he said. “I am not a racist. My mom is with a black man, and so is my sister. I have seven kids, and three of them are by a black woman. I am not a racist.”

The neighbor said he the explanation “doesn’t make the situation right. It’s offensive to a lot of people.” He also said he didn’t feel comfortable confronting the man about the lawn jockey. So 10 On Your Side did it for him, and the man says he will move the statue from his yard.

Shortly after our conversation, the man took the lawn jockey into his home.

“It looks real good. The flower pots look better than the lawn jockey … much better,” said his neighbor.

WAVY.com called Newport News and the lawn jockey is not in violation of any city code. What is clear the lawn jockey’s beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. To the neighbor it represents the days of slavery, and Jim Crow. To some historians, the lawn jockey has evolved from faithful service and duty during the American Revolutionary War.

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