"Jocko, The Slave Who Saved America” Retold by Genevieve Mumford
A slave, a black man, less than 5 feet tall, helped America win
its independence from England.
His name is Jocko. Mr. Joque (Jocko) Graves.
Jocko is excluded from white history books, but he couldn't be
completely erased. George Washington made sure of that!
As stated above, Jocko was less than 5 ft tall, speculation puts
his age anywhere from 14 to 30. Apparently he was a Pygmy,
although it’s unclear what part of Africa he was captured from.
Brought to America as a slave in chains, Jocko had a unique
gift; he could train and ride any horse.
To his credit and again thanks to George Washington, the
word “Jockey” comes from Jocko, meaning a small person
who rides horses.
It was one of the coldest winters in history! Thick icy snow
covered the region. With thick fog and parts of the Delaware
River frozen, it was difficult for George Washington and his
men to see or navigate the river that fateful night. The British
soldiers were lined up on the banks of the Delaware River,
ready to kill Washington and his men when they came ashore.
But George Washington had a secret weapon; Jocko!
He had heard about Jocko’s ability with horses and had paid his
"owner" to have Jocko come work for him. Jocko was
commissioned to bring a team of horses, supplies and weapons
to the beaches of the Delaware River. Washington never once
doubted that Jocko could and would be there. He knew that
Jocko was the only person who could do this successfully and
not be detected. He was right.
Sneaking past British soldiers, Jocko led the horses to a safe
spot on the beach. With one hand holding a lantern, to signal
to Washington that it was safe to land there, Jocko held the
team of horses with his other hand. He stood there for hours,
doing his duty, for his country.
When Washington and his men came ashore, guided by the
light from Jocko’s lantern, they found Jocko frozen to death,
in that exact position! One hand holding the lantern, one hand
holding the team of horses!
Washington had promised Jocko his freedom if he helped
America gain her freedom. He was determined to succeed
and he did. In death, Jocko got the freedom the white man
would not give him while he was alive. His courage gave birth
to a nation that kept right on enslaving hundreds of millions of
black people just like him !
George Washington had Jocko’s frozen body taken back to
Virginia and put on ice, as they went on to win the battle for
Since white people objected to making a black slave, a national
hero, Washington found a way to honor Jocko and to make sure
Jocko would always be remembered. It was ingenious.
From a mold of his frozen body, Washington had the best artisans
make thousands of cast iron and bronze statues of Jocko. Exact
replicas of Jocko's entire body, his features, height and even the
clothing he wore that fateful night. A few hundred statues were also
made of pure gold! The gold statues were given to wealthy people
who later helped Washington become the first President.
The statues became known as “Lawn Jockeys”.
Washington made sure the statues were indestructible and were
distributed all over America and in Europe to commemorate this
brave man named Jocko. The statues soon became a high
Washington also made sure each statue had a plaque telling
what Jocko did that night. Unfortunately, since the plagues were
separate and not attached to the statues, the true meaning of the
statues wasn't always passed on.
Never-the-less, Washington wanted the world to know of Jocko’s
bravery, sacrifice and that he helped win the war for America
independence. He also saved the life of the future 1st President
of America; George Washington.
No matter what Washington did to commemorate Jocko, racist
whites found a way to destroy Jocko’s image. They were extremely
angry at Washington for telling people that a black slave saved
this nation and made it possible for them to exist. That alone
could have ended slavery and southern whites did not want that
They turned Jocko’s statues into a joke. They shot up the statues
when they saw them on people’s lawn. The racist slave owners
started calling Jocko a “lawn nigger” instead of “Lawn Jockey“.
These rich powerful men had newspaper articles and cartoons
depicting Jocko as a little black man, with a wide evil grin, who
would sneak into their homes and rape white women.
This evil propaganda worked, at least for a while.
They did such a thorough job turning Jocko into a negative
caricature, that even blacks were ashamed of the statues.
A century later, because blacks did not know the real history
of the statues or who Jocko was, they started demanding that
all Jocko statues be painted white.
Far too late, they learned who Jocko truly was and that the
statues were the only way George Washington could honor
this brave, unique hero!
Today, we smile proudly when we happen to see a “Lawn Jockey”
even if it’s painted white. We know it’s Jocko under there.
Trying to find an original Jocko statue today, is like trying to find
a needle in a hay stack! And if you do find one, they are so
expensive that it hurts. If anyone reading this knows where I
can get an original statue of this brave hero, please let me know.
I want this American Hero in my home and in my heart. I will
always pass on the story of Jocko and hope you will too.
For more stories about Jocko, here are several links:
"A Journey To Freedom" by Steven W. Moore