Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reviled black lawn jockey once a beacon to freedom

Statues of black jockeys on the lawn, reviled nowadays as racist, once were a symbol of the road to freedom for African-American slaves.

Escaping slaves understood then that the jockey statue would guide them to the Underground Railroad and to freedom.

The jockey, in a similarly secret way, pointed to safe houses along the Underground Railroad.

"These statues were used as markers on the Underground Railroad throughout the South into Canada," said historian/author Charles Blockson, curator of the Afro-American Collection at Temple University in Philadelphia. "Green ribbons were tied to the arms of the statue to indicate safety; red ribbons meant to keep going."

Like so many things in history, original meanings get changed to something quite different over time. Gay, for example, once had nothing to do with sexual preference, but with having a happy time at a ballroom dancing party.

The meaning of words is like a snowball rolling down a mountain that changes its shape and impression by the time it reaches the valley.

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