I am continually amazed by some people's indignant claim to a right to use offensive, racist language to demonstrate their steadfastness in the face of "over-zealous PCers" or in the guise of "historical accuracy". Neither excuse sticks -- there is no good reason to use racially or ethnically derogatory language before an audience -- none. As a bluegrasser, I've changed "pickaninny" to "little children", and the song is in fact better for it ("Mississippi Shore"). The ridiculous "coon" song Bert quotes was almost certainly written by white Tin Pan Alley practitioners looking for a lucrative hit song. You could dump all such tunes from the 1890-1920 era into the Charles River and the world would be none the worse, morally -- or musically.
James, in Bristol, RI
PS -- Up here in New England, a Yankee is a white, Protestant blue-blood.