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Happy! - Oct 2 (Nat Turner)

Abby Sale 02 Oct 05 - 11:23 AM
Desert Dancer 02 Oct 05 - 04:22 PM
Azizi 02 Oct 05 - 07:37 PM
Desert Dancer 02 Oct 05 - 09:26 PM
Abby Sale 02 Oct 05 - 10:53 PM
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Subject: Happy! - Oct 2 (Nat Turner)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 02 Oct 05 - 11:23 AM


Happy Birthday!

Revolter, Nat Turner

was born 10/2/1800
(executed 11/11/1831)

Virginia: Nat Turner began the only effective, sustained slave revolt in U.S. history on 8/21/1831, qv. From 1832 "Negroes were put under special restriction to home quarters and patrolmen appointed to keep them in." [Lomax]

        And ober de fence as slick as a eel
        Dis nigger jumped all but his heel;
        De white man ketch dat fast, you see,
        And tied it tight aroun' de tree.

                Oh, run, nigger, run! de patter-roller ketch you.
                Run, nigger, run! hit's almos' day!
                Oh, run, nigger, run! de patter-roller ketch you.
                Run, nigger, run! hit's almos' day!

                        "Run, Nigger, Run," Lomax American Ballads & Folk Songs, p228.

It refers to runaway slaves escaping the patrols after Nat Turner's Revolt. The song & base tune "Fire on the Mountain" processed into many instrumental & comic versions. An exciting mountain version, "Run, Jimmie, Run" and also "Fire on the Mountain" can both be heard on the CD of Original Folkways Recordings of Doc Watson & Clarence Ashley, Smith/Folkways. Also see minstrel show skit - search at http://memory.loc.gov "America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets." (http://tinyurl.com/cullq might work.)

Copyright © 2005, Abby Sale - all rights reserved
What are Happy's all about? See Clicky


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Subject: RE: Happy! - Oct 2 (Nat Turner)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 02 Oct 05 - 04:22 PM

Fire on the Mountain appears in Helen Creighton's and Doreen Senior's Traditional Songs of Nova Scotia.

   "Children move in two circles with one extra child in outer circle. This extra child gives the signal to stop by calling "Fire's Out."
   Circles join hands and move to left, singing:
       Fire's on the mountain, run, run, run,
       Fire's on the mountain, run, run, run,
       Fire's on the mountain, run, run, run,
       Fire's on the mountain, run, run, run,

At any time the signal may be given at which time the singing stops and each child on the outside tries to catch one of those in the inner circle. The one who fails to catch anyone is the extra one who gives the signal next."

When I first saw this I wasn't aware of the black connection of that song. But, maybe it makes sense given Nova Scotia's history of having a black population. More on that here

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Happy! - Oct 2 (Nat Turner)
From: Azizi
Date: 02 Oct 05 - 07:37 PM

Thanks for the information Becky and Abby too. I believe that it is important to know the history of folk songs, including those of African American origin that have become part of the generic American folk music genre.

However, I hope that persons teaching the "Pateroller" song to children or whomever refrain from using the "N" word.


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Subject: RE: Happy! - Oct 2 (Nat Turner)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 02 Oct 05 - 09:26 PM

Azizi, the version of the "Pateroller" song that, at least at one time, went to the schools came via Ruth Crawford Seeger's 1948 American Folk Songs for Children and had the line as "Run, chillen, run...."

Her note on the origins of the song puts it: "A patterroller was a patrollman whose job it was, in pre-Civil-War days, to patrol plantation borders. In some localities the workers were allowed to visit neighboring plantations but had to be back before daybreak."

A bit of a circumlocution, if not a misinterpretation or misrepresentation, of the circumstances.

She was undoubtedly familiar with the Lomaxes' book, but, she cites On the Trail of Negro Folk Songs by Dorothy Scarborough (Harvard University Press) for the song, and in her citation has it as "Run, Chillen, Run" ("Run, Nigger, Run").

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Happy! - Oct 2 (Nat Turner)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 02 Oct 05 - 10:53 PM

Good info, Becky. Thanks. As I looked into the song a bit, it became hard to put it together without doing a full research paper thing. There are so many titles & different people running... Also it diverges into the children's game family, as you mention, as well as the purely instrumental versions. Seems reasonable that as time and culture moved away from Turner's revolt and the patrols, the initial meaning got fuzzy. On first meeting the song years ago, I certainly didn't intuit what a 'patter-roller' was. Ruth Seeger may have changed this herself but I believe the 'chillen' occurs in tradition, too.

Azizi: always a problem: censorship / sensibility of the audience (and its potential audience / historical truth. No small discussion. I think there are several threads on it.


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