Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Status Symbols: New Twist in Jockey Debate

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Status Symbols: New Twist in Jockey Debate

Article excerpt

It's an old story with a surprising twist: Black minister decries the public display of lawn jockeys - because they are not black!

Lawn jockeys are the small cast-iron statues of blacks once found at the entrance to colonnaded homes and country clubs throughout the South and elsewhere. They have long been condemned as racist artifacts from an era when whites kept blacks in their places.

Not so, says the Rev. Jerry Buckner of the Tiburon Christian Fellowship. Tiburon is a town of 2,000, and fewer than 1 percent of the residents are black. Buckner, who is black, wants the four white lawn jockeys along Tiburon's Main Street repainted their original color.

He says black lawn jockeys were intended to honor - not demean - the real black jockeys who dominated American horse racing in the latter part of the 19th century.

"All of the original first jockeys were black, and most people aren't even aware of that fact," Buckner said last week. He noted that the first 13 winners of the Kentucky Derby - beginning with Oliver Lewis in 1875 - were blacks who often owned the horses they rode.

Those who protest against the display of black lawn jockeys are "historically illiterate," Buckner said.

Tiburon's lawn jockeys were black until 1984, when a professor from the University of California at Berkeley complained in a letter printed in the Ark, Tiburon's newspaper.

Ed Zelinsky, a white landlord who owns most of downtown and had placed the figures around Tiburon, aresponded by repainting the statues a pale Caucasian pink.

"I did it to make everybody happy," a bewildered Zelinsky said last week. "We were not trying to offend anybody. They're colorful, you know. It adds a little bit of charm to the place."

But Kerry Pierson is not charmed. Pierson, a black activist from Mill Valley, Calif., said he always considered the metal jockeys disturbing, despite their racial transformation. …

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