The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #117973   Message #2546211
Posted By: Azizi
22-Jan-09 - 01:16 PM
Thread Name: BS: Brits on Titanic die of niceness
Subject: RE: BS: Brits on Titanic die of niceness
I don't think it would be too off-topic to add this "clean" version of this African American "toast" to this thread:


Shine and the Titanic

It was a hell of a day in the merry month of May
When the great Titanic was sailing away.
The captain and his daughter was there, too,
And old black Shine, he didn't need no crew.

Shine was downstairs eating his peas
When the . . .water come up to his knees.
He said, "Captain, Captain, I was downstairs eating my peas When the water come up to my knees."
He said, "Shine, Shine, set your black self down.
I got ninety-nine pumps to pump the water down."

Shine went downstairs looking through space.
That's when the water came up to his waist.
He said, "Captain, Captain, I was downstairs looking through space,
That's when the water came up to my waist."
He said, "Shine, Shine, set your black self down.
I got ninety-nine pumps to pump the water down."

Shine went downstairs, he ate a piece of bread.
That's when the water came above his head.
He said, "Captain, Captain, I was downstairs eating my bread
And the . . .water came above my head."
He said, "Shine, Shine, set your black self down.
I got ninety-nine pumps to pump the water down."

Shine took off his shirt, took a dive. He took one stroke
And the water pushed him like it pushed a motorboat.

[one or more sentences missing here about the captain asking Shine to save him]

I'll give you more money than any black man see."
Shine said, "Money is good on land or sea.
Take off your shirt and swim like me."
And Shine Swam on.
Shine met up with the whale.
The whale said, "Shine, Shine, you swim mighty fine,
But if you miss one stroke, your black self is mine."
Shine said, "You may be the king of the ocean, king of the sea,
But you got to be a swimming son-of-a-gun to out-swim me."
And Shine swam on.
Now when the news got to the port, the great Titanic has sunk,
You won't believe this, but old Shine was on the corner damn near drunk.

Also, see this excerpt from

"The Toast of the Titanic Oral Tradition Carries On Legend of Lone African American By Dana Hull, Washington Post, December 20, 1997; Page F01 -

Titanic hoopla is upon us: the documentary, the musical, now the movie. Yet buried deep in the mythology of the doomed voyage is the story of Shine, a fictional character who lives on through the folk traditions of the African American community. Legend has it that the only black man on board the Titanic was a laborer called Shine -- "shine" being a derogatory term for blacks. Because he worked below deck, Shine was the first to realize that the Titanic was sinking, and thus was able to escape while more than 1,500 passengers perished in the April 14, 1912, disaster.

Most stories about Shine take place in the form of "toasts," an improvisational oral narrative popular in black communities from the 1920s to the early 1960s. A form of street poetry, toasts were usually performed in the male provinces of pool halls and street corners, and were passed on from friend to friend. Often as profane as they were misogynistic, the raplike verses reveal a different perspective of the event that currently is being celebrated in the Hollywood blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The Shine toast revels in sharing a smug satisfaction that the Titanic -- a symbol of white European arrogance and affluence -- sank on its maiden voyage. The irony that African Americans were not allowed to make the crossing -- thus sparing their lives -- inspired a wealth of jokes, toasts and ballads.

Numerous verses of the various Shine toasts, particularly those that refer to the female anatomy, are not suitable for a family newspaper. But the rhyming verses, which could last for up to 10 minutes, go something like this: Up stepped a black man from the deck below that they called Shine.Hollerin, "Captain! Captain! Don't you know? There's forty feet of water on the boiler room flo'." The captain said, "Go back, you dirty black! We got a thousand pumps to keep this water back." Because Shine exists solely in the oral tradition, verses would vary from teller to teller.

Roger Abrahams, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, was one of the few folklorists to record them. "Most versions of the Titanic fit into the same general pattern," he wrote in his 1963 book "Deep Down in the Jungle: Negro Narrative Folklore From the Streets of Philadelphia." There's a "prologue about the terrible day on which the ship sank; the introduction of Shine, the mythical Negro stoker on board the ship; a description of his argument with the captain about whether the ship was sinking; his jumping into the water and his amazing swimming ability described; the captain's offer of money to save him, which he refuses; the offer of the captain's wife and/or daughter of sexual relations with him, which he likewise refuses; a conversation with the shark and/or whale where he claims to be able to out-swim them (which he apparently does); and a final ironic twist in which it is mentioned that Shine swam so fast that by the time news of the sea tragedy arrived, Shine was already inebriated in some specific location." When the news got around the world that the great Titanic had sunk, Shine was in Harlem on 125th street, damn near drunk. Or: When all them white folks went to Heaven, Shine was in Sugar Ray's Bar drinking Seagram's Seven. "Shine is the clever black," says Bruce Jackson, a professor of American culture at SUNY-Buffalo who traveled around the country recording toasts in the 1960s and '70s. "He's the only one on board smart enough to save his life, and he's the only one strong enough to physically swim to shore." Other toasts include stories about a barroom brawl involving Stagger Lee, or tales of the Signifying Monkey, an animal fable in which a clever monkey outwits a lion. "There are a number of toasts," Jackson says of his field recordings. "But I heard the most toasts about the Titanic. It made an enormous impact on the popular imagination of the time. People knew in the black community that it was an all-white ship -- it was part of the White Star Line. When it went down, that was not lost on the community." But the sinking of the Titanic was not solely the province of toasts. Numerous musicians, from guitarist Blind Willie Johnson to the New Lost City Ramblers, recorded songs that told the Titanic tale. Some versions, recorded as "God Moves on the Water," were widely circulated in the 1920s and focused on the spiritual aspects of the accident.

The Titanic was a symbol of technological prowess, and some people saw the disaster as divine intervention. It's possible to spend hours listening to Titanic tunes in the majestically dusty archives of the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies. Ask archivist Jeff Place for Titanic songs, and he'll pull out album after album: Pink Anderson's Carolina Medicine Show Hokum & Blues, Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers, Mance Lipscomb. Others recall singing a song about "When That Great Ship Went Down" at summer camp. The famed blues guitarist Leadbelly also recorded a Titanic song. His lyrics included the common folklore that Jack Johnson, the black man who was world heavyweight boxing champion at the time, was denied passage on the boat. Jack Johnson wanted to get on board Captain, he said, "I ain't hauling no coal" Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well. "There are a lot of songs about the Titanic, in part because the story itself is so dramatic," says Anthony Seeger, curator of the Folkways Recordings archives. "Versions of songs about the Titanic have been done with rock, gospel and blues. The clarity in which class distinctions were made on the voyage really resonated in folk culture, and by singing about it Americans were able to comment on their feelings." As Leadbelly sang it: When he heard that mighty shock, Mighta seen that man doin' the Eagle Rock Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well". "


[I changed the formatting of this paragraph to enhance its readability]