The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #86330   Message #1605183
Posted By: Q (Frank Staplin)
14-Nov-05 - 09:33 PM
Thread Name: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
Malcolm, both white and black farmers, men and women, picked cotton, and continued to do so until the 1940s, when mechanical harvesters took over and transformed the job. In the United States, perhaps more than a million field workers had to find other work, contributing to a major migration to towns and cities across the land (The white field hands had the most trouble adjusting to city life- Many African-Americans had relatives who had previously moved 'up north' and this seems to have helped them integrate into the cities).

The song came from men chopping brush and cane, men who needed a 'perky' song. It is a boastful song, "sung with as much vigor as if he could get up the next minute and pick a bale of cotton, and in a half-day," by Platt. Listen to Rev. Mose Platt sing it on American Memory.

It may never have been used by cotton-pickers. "Pick a Bale" has not been found in any collection before the 1930s, it may well have been just a handy line, much as 'pick a peck of pickles' in the kid's tongue-twister. The rhythm is wrong for picking cotton.