The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #90399   Message #3576766
Posted By: Azizi
18-Nov-13 - 11:41 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Pick a Bale of Cotton
Subject: RE: Origins: Pick a Bale of Cotton
Here are two of my comments from that post:

It appears that John Lomax considered the inclusion of the word "massa" in 'Iron Head' Baker's and 'Clear Rocks' Platts' version of "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" to be enough evidence to support his assertion that "PABOC" was sung by Black people during slavery while they were picking cotton or at other times. However, no folklorist has found documentation of "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" being sung during United States slavery. I wonder if Iron Head Baker & Clear Rocks Platt used the word "massa" in their rendition of "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" to veil the fact that they actually were referring to their prison overseers.


Given that so much of the toxicity that surrounds the song "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" particularly when it is sung by young school children is because of the word "cotton", I wonder if anyone has ever taught this song with the substitute words "Pick a bunch of flowers".

The song would still be easy to learn & sing for children. The tempo and accompanying movemets that young children love would be retained, but singing that song that way removes its controversial connection to Black slavery, which is widely-and I think erroneously thought to be the song's source.

Even if that easy fix were adopted, I still think that Lead Belly's version of "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" and other's versions of that song including Iron Head Baker's & Clear Rock Platt's version should be introduced to older children. teens, and adult for those song's historical, sociological, and musicial content.

Azizi Powell