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PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban

DigiTrad:
PICK A BALE OF COTTON


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: Pick a Bale of Cotton (55)
Chord Req: Pick A Bale of Cotton (16)


dick greenhaus 14 Nov 05 - 10:07 AM
GUEST,Andy 14 Nov 05 - 10:13 AM
greg stephens 14 Nov 05 - 10:34 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 14 Nov 05 - 10:50 AM
katlaughing 14 Nov 05 - 10:57 AM
mack/misophist 14 Nov 05 - 11:02 AM
Bill D 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM
GUEST,leeneia 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM
Peace 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM
beardedbruce 14 Nov 05 - 11:05 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 14 Nov 05 - 11:27 AM
Nick 14 Nov 05 - 12:06 PM
Cool Beans 14 Nov 05 - 12:32 PM
wysiwyg 14 Nov 05 - 12:33 PM
Peace 14 Nov 05 - 12:33 PM
Ebbie 14 Nov 05 - 12:54 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Nov 05 - 01:51 PM
Clinton Hammond 14 Nov 05 - 01:53 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Nov 05 - 01:58 PM
pdq 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM
Gedpipes 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM
Coyote Breath 14 Nov 05 - 02:11 PM
Clinton Hammond 14 Nov 05 - 02:12 PM
Coyote Breath 14 Nov 05 - 02:28 PM
ToulouseCruise 14 Nov 05 - 02:37 PM
Kaleea 14 Nov 05 - 02:59 PM
Jon W. 14 Nov 05 - 03:23 PM
mg 14 Nov 05 - 04:03 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 14 Nov 05 - 04:10 PM
Liz the Squeak 14 Nov 05 - 04:15 PM
Ernest 14 Nov 05 - 04:36 PM
Peace 14 Nov 05 - 04:43 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Nov 05 - 04:44 PM
Peace 14 Nov 05 - 05:03 PM
GUEST,HughM 14 Nov 05 - 05:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Nov 05 - 06:06 PM
Jeri 14 Nov 05 - 06:47 PM
Azizi 14 Nov 05 - 07:05 PM
Big Mick 14 Nov 05 - 07:24 PM
Azizi 14 Nov 05 - 07:37 PM
Joybell 14 Nov 05 - 07:39 PM
Azizi 14 Nov 05 - 07:39 PM
Jeri 14 Nov 05 - 07:59 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Nov 05 - 08:16 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Nov 05 - 08:52 PM
David Ingerson 14 Nov 05 - 09:10 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Nov 05 - 09:33 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 14 Nov 05 - 09:41 PM
Azizi 14 Nov 05 - 10:06 PM
Joybell 14 Nov 05 - 11:10 PM
Ferrara 15 Nov 05 - 12:27 AM
Richard Bridge 15 Nov 05 - 04:13 AM
greg stephens 15 Nov 05 - 05:41 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Nov 05 - 01:10 PM
Ferrara 15 Nov 05 - 01:43 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 15 Nov 05 - 01:58 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Nov 05 - 03:18 PM
M.Ted 15 Nov 05 - 05:05 PM
David Ingerson 16 Nov 05 - 04:53 PM
Terry K 17 Nov 05 - 02:45 AM
GUEST,MikeofNorthumbria(sans cookie) 17 Nov 05 - 07:29 AM
Cool Beans 17 Nov 05 - 09:05 AM
Snuffy 17 Nov 05 - 09:32 AM
Tweed 17 Nov 05 - 09:47 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 17 Nov 05 - 12:00 PM
Peace 17 Nov 05 - 02:29 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 17 Nov 05 - 02:31 PM
Peace 17 Nov 05 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,Cary Ginell 17 Nov 05 - 03:19 PM
beardedbruce 17 Nov 05 - 03:27 PM
Joybell 17 Nov 05 - 04:27 PM
wysiwyg 17 Nov 05 - 04:40 PM
GUEST,martin gibson 17 Nov 05 - 05:23 PM
Peace 17 Nov 05 - 05:30 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 17 Nov 05 - 05:32 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Nov 05 - 05:46 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 17 Nov 05 - 06:00 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Nov 05 - 07:05 PM
Jeri 17 Nov 05 - 07:06 PM
Scoville 17 Nov 05 - 09:07 PM
mg 17 Nov 05 - 11:46 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Nov 05 - 12:21 AM
Peace 18 Nov 05 - 10:20 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 05 - 10:31 AM
Peace 18 Nov 05 - 10:34 AM
Tam the man 18 Nov 05 - 10:48 AM
Tam the man 18 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM
s&r 18 Nov 05 - 11:46 AM
GUEST,Cary Ginell 18 Nov 05 - 01:06 PM
Peace 18 Nov 05 - 01:08 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 05 - 01:28 PM
Ferrara 18 Nov 05 - 02:10 PM
dick greenhaus 18 Nov 05 - 04:45 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 05 - 05:14 PM
GUEST 18 Nov 05 - 05:17 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 05 - 05:27 PM
Joybell 18 Nov 05 - 05:31 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Nov 05 - 06:19 PM
GUEST,the old pooperoo 18 Nov 05 - 06:34 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 05 - 06:35 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 05 - 06:36 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 05 - 06:37 PM
Peace 18 Nov 05 - 06:54 PM
Joybell 18 Nov 05 - 06:55 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Nov 05 - 07:16 PM
dick greenhaus 18 Nov 05 - 09:52 PM
Ferrara 18 Nov 05 - 10:30 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 05 - 11:06 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Nov 05 - 11:34 PM
Jeri 19 Nov 05 - 10:00 AM
Ron Davies 19 Nov 05 - 10:11 AM
dick greenhaus 19 Nov 05 - 10:27 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Nov 05 - 12:03 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Nov 05 - 01:34 PM
Terry K 19 Nov 05 - 01:45 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Nov 05 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,D 19 Nov 05 - 02:36 PM
wysiwyg 19 Nov 05 - 04:19 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Nov 05 - 05:08 PM
M.Ted 19 Nov 05 - 05:50 PM
GUEST,Catrinka 19 Nov 05 - 07:52 PM
Terry K 19 Nov 05 - 08:28 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Nov 05 - 09:15 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Nov 05 - 09:22 PM
Azizi 19 Nov 05 - 09:36 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Nov 05 - 10:13 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Nov 05 - 11:56 PM
mg 20 Nov 05 - 12:32 AM
M.Ted 20 Nov 05 - 10:22 AM
dick greenhaus 20 Nov 05 - 10:23 AM
Terry K 20 Nov 05 - 10:38 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 20 Nov 05 - 12:44 PM
Joybell 20 Nov 05 - 04:13 PM
dianavan 20 Nov 05 - 05:21 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Nov 05 - 06:15 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 20 Nov 05 - 07:06 PM
Richard Bridge 21 Nov 05 - 05:45 PM
dianavan 21 Nov 05 - 08:06 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 22 Nov 05 - 09:34 AM
Goose Gander 22 Nov 05 - 10:15 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 22 Nov 05 - 10:36 AM
Goose Gander 22 Nov 05 - 10:48 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 22 Nov 05 - 10:59 AM
Cool Beans 22 Nov 05 - 11:07 AM
GUEST,MC 02 Dec 06 - 04:53 PM
Goose Gander 02 Dec 06 - 09:35 PM
GUEST 02 Dec 06 - 09:54 PM
sapper82 03 Dec 06 - 11:12 AM
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Subject: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:07 AM

Folk Song Angers Parents, NAACP in Mich.


BERKLEY, Mich. (AP) - A black parent and the NAACP are criticizing a middle school's decision to perform a song that they say glorifies slavery.

The song, ``Pick a Bale of Cotton,'' is on the folk music choir program Wednesday at predominantly white Anderson Middle School in the Berkley School District.

The song's lyrics include, ``Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton. Gotta jump down, turn around, Oh, Lordie, pick a bale a day.''

Greg Montgomery told The Detroit News that he complained to school officials, and when he was dissatisfied with their response, decided to pull his 11-year-old daughter, China, from singing.

``It's mind-boggling that people don't understand sensitive issues,'' he said.

China said: ``They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn't a good memory. It was disrespectful to African-Americans.''

Berkley schools spokeswoman Gwen Ahern said district officials would consider the song's origin and decide whether to leave it in the concert program. She also defended the choice.

``We used to sing that song when I was in school during the '50s,'' she said. ``It's like a Southern type of folk song. I remember it being perky. It was more of a song that people just sang for fun.''
Messages from multiple threads combined. To see which started out as which, watch the message titles.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: GUEST,Andy
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:13 AM

And yet ANOTHER load of bollocks from the lefty, limp-wristed, hand wringing, liberal P.C brigade. When are they going to get real?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: greg stephens
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:34 AM

Leadbelly was jeered at the time by younger trendier black student audiences. It was a shame then, and it is a shame now, that people can be so distorted by PC victimology that they cannot recognise and feel the thrill of the incredible black folk music of the USA.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:50 AM

I learned the song from an Odetta record.

Art


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: katlaughing
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:57 AM

I learned it from a Harry Belafonte record and would like to see what he would think of this.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Davis, was white, from Louisiana and told us about growing up and picking cotton, herself. The big story was about the snake which crawled in her cotton sack one day.

As a grandmother of mixed-race children, I am sensitive. Some of my ancestors owned slaves. I think, if they choose to keep the song in the program, they could preface it with an educational bit and the kids would be the richer for it.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: mack/misophist
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:02 AM

I was taught to pick cotton by a black lady. It's a nasty job but both races did it. It's nasty even with a 7 foot sack (Real pros use a 14 foot sack.)


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: Bill D
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM

"Sit down, turn around
Learn a bit of history.
Sit down, turn around,
Learn a bit a day."


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM

"they could preface it with an educational bit and the kids would be the richer for it."

That's exactly right. And it wouldn't just be the kids that learn something.

Somebody should hand that dad a copy of "Blue Willow", a children's book about life in the Depression, and point out the contest where the girl's father, a white man, enters the cotton-picking contest.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: Peace
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM

"And yet ANOTHER load of bollocks from the lefty, limp-wristed, hand wringing, liberal P.C brigade"

The other half of your rhyming couplet:

And yet ANOTHER load of bollocks from the righty, mind-twisted, shit slinging, conservative P.C brigade

It has to do with stupidity, not politics, Andy.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: beardedbruce
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:05 AM

hear, hear, Peace.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:27 AM

IMHO, the black community might do well to look at this problem from a slightly different angle.

The song, like many others, was not sung by whites to denigrate black people. It was an example of the way in which blacks, despite the vicissitudes of slavery, were able to keep their spirit alive, and the fact that it has survived to be sung today should be seen as a compliment to the fortitude of those unfortunates who, torn from their homelands, were still able to produce this kind of material.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: Nick
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 12:06 PM

Look at the words of the verses -

|: That nigger from Shiloh
Can pick a bale of cotton
That nigger from Shiloh
Can pick a bale a day. :|
Chorus:

Me and my gal can pick . . . .

Me and my wife . . . .

Me and my buddy . . . .

Me and my poppa . . . .

Takes a mighty big man to . . . .

*****

We all help each other - but that nigger can do it by himself.

No. You're right. How on earth could the words or sentiment cause any offence to anyone?


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Subject: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Cool Beans
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 12:32 PM

Should "Pick a Bale of Cotton" be banned from a middle school concert? Here's a story from the Nov. 14 Detroit News:
   
    OAK PARK -- China Montgomery simply wants to sing. It is her first love, not including math and Barbie dolls.
But when the Anderson Middle School student showed her parents the lyrics to a song her school choir is scheduled to sing in a concert Wednesday, they were appalled.

The title: "Pick a Bale of Cotton."

To China's parents, the song glorifies slavery in a shameful era of U.S. history. It is called an "American folk song" on the music sheet the children are learning.

Greg Montgomery, China's father, is African-American. He appealed to everyone from the school's principal to the superintendent of the Berkley School District to pull the song from the concert. The school is mostly white.

There are several versions of the song, including at least one with a racial slur repeated twice in one verse. The slur does not appear in the version the 30 choir students -- six of them African-American -- were asked to sing.

When Montgomery's pleas to pull the song from the concert were met with what he described as resistance, he decided to remove his daughter, 11, from the concert.

"We just buried Mother Parks, and this is happening only a few weeks later," he said. "It's mind-boggling that people don't understand sensitive issues.

"When I told my 81-year-old Aunt Minnie Ridout, she told me to tell the school administrators to come see her back," Montgomery said. Her back is still affected by the countless hours she spent bending to pick cotton as a girl, he said.

"She said she was not jumping around and singing while she was picking cotton in Alabama and the Mississippi Delta as a young girl."

The school principal, Steve Frank, was not available to comment. The vice principal, Jim Cowdry, said he only knew "bits and pieces" of the issue and deferred to Superintendent Nancy Campbell, who deferred to Gwen Ahern, communications supervisor for the Berkley School District.

"We used to sing that song when I was in school during the '50s," she said. "It's like a Southern type of folk song. I remember it being perky. It was more of a song that people just sang for fun."

Ahern then proceeded to sing the song over the telephone.

"This is going to be a folk music concert, and children will be performing songs from Germany, England, Mexico and other places."

Asked if she knew about the Montgomerys' concerns, Ahern said yes. "As far as I know, they're going ahead with the concert," she said. She added that district officials will study the origins of the song.

The children will be singing, in part, "Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton. Gotta jump down, turn around, Oh Lordie, pick a bale a day."

Dr. Eugene Rogers, president of the North Oakland County NAACP, called the situation unbelievable.

"Some people think they should be able to do anything, and we should be able to adjust and not take it personally," he said. "But I've lived through all of this, and I'm still living through it."

Rogers said it is insensitive to proceed with the song. "People shouldn't have to be subjected to this, especially our children."

Geena Guice, a Wayne County psychotherapist who works with African-American children on issues including self-esteem, said the song perpetuates the stereotype of the happy black slave.

"I am shocked that educators of our children would have so little concern about cultural diversity or support for a developing adolescent's self-image."

Guice said being asked to sing a cheerful song about slavery marginalizes a black child. "It singles her out in a derogatory manner, and would definitely challenge her identity development and self-esteem."

China said she'd never heard the song before her class started learning it. But it didn't take long for her to figure out what the song is about.

"The first day that we got it, I didn't understand that it was a bad song, but about two or three days later I finally understood what the words meant," China said. "I understood that it wasn't a nice song to sing because it's talking about African-American people.

"They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn't a good memory. It was disrespectful to African-Americans."

Later Friday, Ahern said she spoke with the superintendent and assistant superintendent.

"We're going to investigate the origin of the song to see what the climate was at that time," she said. "We want to see if it was uplifting or derogatory, and then we'll decide."

Asked if she knew there was a version with a racial slur, Ahern said yes.

"It's been an American folk song forever," she said, "and it's been sung in schools forever."

#


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 12:33 PM

See Dick G's earlier thread of today....

~S~


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Peace
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 12:33 PM

There is a thread on this already. Perhaps they could be combined?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: Ebbie
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 12:54 PM

My thought exactly, Nick. It is easy for Whites to sit here at
our computers and harrumph at others' sensitivity. Frankly, in my opinion, we Whites don't have a clue as to what exacerbates old wounds. And we don't get the right to choose.

"Somebody should hand that dad a copy of "Blue Willow", a children's book about life in the Depression, and point out the contest where the girl's father, a white man, enters the cotton-picking contest. " leenia

Question, leenia: In that (fictional) story did that white man win the contest?


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Subject: Folk song banned
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 01:51 PM

link


Complaints Lead Michigan School to Drop Folk Song

BERKLEY, Mich. (Nov. 14) - A song about people picking cotton was pulled from a middle school concert in suburban Detroit after a black parent complained that it glorifies slavery.

Superintendent Tresa Zumsteg decided Monday to remove the song "Pick a Bale of Cotton" from the program, said Gwen Ahearn, spokeswoman for the Berkley School District.

Ahearn said that when the song was picked for Wednesday's folk songs concert at Anderson Middle School, there was no intent to offend anyone.

"As it became apparent that that is the case, we pulled the song," she said.

The school is predominantly white.

The song's lyrics include, "Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton. Gotta jump down, turn around, Oh, Lordie, pick a bale a day."

Parent Greg Montgomery said he complained to school officials, and when he was dissatisfied with their response, decided to pull his 11-year-old daughter, China, from singing.

"It's mind-boggling that people don't understand sensitive issues," he told The Detroit News.

China said: "They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn't a good memory. It was disrespectful to African-Americans."

Ahearn said there's nothing derogatory in the song's lyrics, but the district did not want China to miss the concert.

"For her family and the school district, the best thing was to pull the song," she said.

Earlier, Ahearn, while confirming that officials were considering pulling the song, had defended the choice.

"We used to sing that song when I was in school during the '50s," she said. "It's like a Southern type of folk song. I remember it being perky. It was more of a song that people just sang for fun."


11/14/05 10:43 EST
    Duplicate threads combined. Watch the message titles to see which was which.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 01:53 PM

Good for them....


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Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 01:58 PM

sorry... did not see that thread because the title seemed a bit vague.


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Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: pdq
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM

Wonder what Johnny Cash, Glenn Campbell and Tammy Wynette would say about this song. They seem to have spent part of their respective youths picking cotton and survived.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM

First collected from prison farms in Texas, a boastful song about picking an impossibly large quantity of cotton (it has never been done). The version with the lines about the "nigger from Shiloh" was sung by Moses Clear Rock Platt, African-American singer, story teller and sometime prisoner on prison farms in Texas. His material was first recorded by Lomax (printed in Lomax and Lomax, 1934, "American Ballads and Folk Songs," pp. 231-233).

Pete Seeger picked it up, and along with the printed version in Silber, "Folksinger's Wordbook," p. 123 (with chords), it became a standard among folk singers. I believe it was Seeger who introduced the "Jump down turn around" lines, borrowed from the old dance and strut songs (Jump Jim Crow, mentioned in a previous post) of the minstrels. Another African-American who recorded it, first on a Texas prison farm, was James 'Ironhead' Baker (Rounder Records).

According to the Traditional Ballad Index, Seeger also recorded it with Sonny Terry.

The Lead Belly version is posted in thread 72256. Pick a Bale

Rather than teaching and interpreting American history, many would suppress it and stick to "Yankee Doodle" and "Remember the Alamo."


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Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Gedpipes
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM

Good grief


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Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:11 PM

"Perky"?

Wasn't "Jump Down..." featured in a Steve Martin film? Can't remember the title but the premise was that he, white, was raised by a black family and believed himself to be black. It's been years since I saw the film, it might have been a SNL sketch...

I never liked the song. It seemed to me to be a reference to the "happy darkies" singing and dancing for their white "masters" notion held by many whites. I always thought it offensive.

Blazing Saddles has a sharp edged parody of that notion. The racist cowboys end up performing "Camptown Races" while the black laborers sing a very polished "I Get a Kick Out of You".

CB


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Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:12 PM

"a Steve Martin film?"

The Jerk


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Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:28 PM

Right! I should have remembered that having just seen the special on his receiving the Mark Twain award.

CB


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Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: ToulouseCruise
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:37 PM

it does make one think that the southern music (much of which was written BY the African-Americans of the day) has been the truest influence on the music of America today, from blues to folk to good ol' rock and roll. I agree that sensitivity must come into play. However, the people of today must take into account that the components of that period of history have been the source of many favorable things today, the development of music being one of them.

Brian


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Kaleea
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:59 PM

I vaguely remember the song, but I do not remember lyrics having to do with any particular race or color or slavery, but I'm sure there are lots of different versions of most songs. I do know that my mother & every member of her family-which included her 9 siblings-picked cotton in Eastern Oklahoma. My mother's family happens to be of mainly Irish ancestry, not African-American. I asked my mother about the song, & she said she remembered hearing it being while picking cotton when she was young. She said there were many songs sung about cotton, especially while picking out in the fields. She said she always thought the song was supposed to be satirical as picking cotton is such back breaking work.
   The song about picking cotton which was often requested of me in nursing homes (in Oklahoma) was Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home. Once when singing it (in Tulsa), I saw the look on the faces of a couple of young Black nurse aids, I asked the residents (mostly white) how many of them had picked cotton when they were young. Almost all raised their hands, and I asked them to share their memories of those days. The black employees were talking about it all day, as they had assumed that only slaves picked cotton, and were shocked that so many of the residents there had picked cotton for very small amounts of money. I believe all of the nursing home employees learned much that day.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Jon W.
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 03:23 PM

great story, Kaleea


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: mg
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:03 PM

my mother's family was sharecroppers in Texas...I don't know what they raised but it might have included cotton...my father's family worked on the railroads..should we kill the railroad songs/


I would continue with the song, with the guest grandmother, with putting it in historical context, with listening to the prison gang singing the originals..of course scrub the song clean..perhaps leave out the dance and sing it a bit less chipperly and use it as a teaching experience with the invovlement of the African American families. mg


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Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:10 PM

The song is an american folk song. By today's standards it can be considered politically incorrect, but it is still an American folksong that depicts a certain time in America that is different from today.

But banning it will not change history. I am afraid that this is political correctness rearing it's head as usual trying to erase or rewrite history so someone won't be offended.

Get over it. Celebrate that it is no longer like this, but do not deny it and erase the music of a period.


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Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:15 PM

An African American and he called his daughter China? Consider me boggled.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Folk Song Ban: 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Ernest
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:36 PM

Does this story tell us who is killing folk music? Answers another thread...
Best wishes
Ernest


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:43 PM

"Celebrate that it is no longer like this, but do not deny it and erase the music of a period."

That, sir, was well said.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:44 PM

Comeon Ernest, lets not start thinking the sky is falling.   This could have been any type of song and the same problem would have occured.

If anything, this story shows us how screwed up the education system is. Instead of teaching the children about the history of the song, they choose to make a stand.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 05:03 PM

I grew up poor and I seem to have returned to my roots. Songs about economic struggle or poverty do not upset me. I cannot speak to the sensitivities of other people, but I am not in favour of revisionist history. There's been too much of that.

When I teach students about the birth of rock and roll, we go back to slave songs, gospel, jazz, bebop, folk, etc. And we talk about Billie and her addiction just as we'd discuss Sir John A Macdonald's love of the bottle, or more accurately, its contents. Students have to be exposed to music that shows the period--because all that music was written based on someone's understanding of what was going on.

People still read the book called "And Then There Were None". It was originally published in England with the title, "Ten Little Niggers". Later, when they went to release it in the US, they figured they'd better change that title, so, in keeping with the time, they named it "Ten Little Indians". Those facts don't change. And knowing that little snippet of information lets me know a bit about what society then considered acceptable. Nigger is not a word I use. However, when I see it in "Huckleberry Finn" it lets me understand that there was a time when I WOULD have used the word and been quite comfortable with it. I am thankful I'm not, but Twain's classic shouldn't be revised to appease the sensitivities of people who'd rather pretend to be aghast than address the issue and provide some critical thinking skills for the kids at the same time. IMO.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST,HughM
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 05:14 PM

A friend recently told me that his father, as a German prisoner in the second world war, had to pick cotton, supervised by black people. Many of his comrades died, not being accustomed to the heat. Evidently the Geneva convention should have been more widely publicised.
   I can see that some people might think the song was trivialising the arduous conditions, but if we always used that as a criterion of acceptability, there would be a great many songs about work which we would have to delete from our repertoires, leaving only the miserable ones.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 06:06 PM

More digression-
China? Why not?
France Nuyen, the Asian-American acrress (Susie Wong, Liat and other roles) was named after her country of birth. Didn't make no never mind.

In WW2, German prisoners of war worked on Oklahoma farms (prison camp near Muskogee), some with cotton. No deaths, but sore backs and bleeding hands for a while.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: Jeri
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 06:47 PM

The problem with making songs that remind people of a certain way of life go away is that it makes a bit of history go away. You try to tell people how things were, and you know, "If things really WERE that way, there would be music. There would be stories in song." So you make the evidence of things you don't think are nice go away, and the things appear to never have happened.

China (the 11-year old former choir member) said, "They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn't a good memory. It was disrespectful to African-Americans." So the memories of slavery should only be happy ones, and it's disrespectful to make people think about what African-Americans went through.

Now, if they wanted to drop the song because they didn't like it, I'd understand.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:05 PM

Liz the Squeak,

In my not at all humble opinion, anyone should be free to name their child any name from any language in the world regardless of their
[or their child's] race or ethnicity.

For example, I was given a Hebrew birth name, and I am African American. It's possible that I have Jewish ancestry. After all African Americans are a mixed race people. However, my parents chose my name because they liked the sound of it.

When I was 20 years old, I adopted the KiSwahili name I use now because I like the sound of it and I like what it means.

Alot of people who aren't Jewish have Hebrew names
[you for instance?].

****

With regard to the song "Pick A Bale Of Cotton"-I personally dislike this song for the stereotypical history it alludes to.

But then again, I dislike just about all of American minstrelfied folk songs. They make me cringe because they are more than lyrics and notes to me.

I certainly feel that that school district showed a remarkable lack of foresight in selecting "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" as representative of African American folk culture.

I could call them names, but I won't.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Big Mick
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:24 PM

Azizi, with all due respect, I need to know what your opinion is with regard to Leadbelly, Moses Clear Rock Platt, Odetta, and Harry Belafonte thinking the song was important enough to record it and preserve it?

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:37 PM

Big Mick-

You will note that I said that this is my personal opinion.

As to the opinion of any other person-Black, White, or Green- "Different strokes for different folks."


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Joybell
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:39 PM

Songs are more than notes and lyrics to most of us here, Azzizi. Many of the above posts (and the posts elsewhere) seem to indicate that, I reckon.
We've all experienced pain and misery for one reason or another. Joy and happiness too. How can any of us know who feels the deeper pain or the greater joy. And why should it matter. The common experience of being human unites us, and the common experience of being singers. Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:39 PM

And Big Mick,

all the best to you too

[and no sarcasm is meant what so ever].

You've paid your dues as have many here.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: Jeri
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:59 PM

There was a page at the Smithsonian site, but it's gone now. Google has it archived here.

They say:

        
Eli Whitney's Patent Failure

Whitney's cotton gin patent did not bring wealth to Eli Whitney, despite the immediate and wide application of his gin. The problem was that the device was too easily copied. Those who understood the basic design could reproduce and sell it without needing a model or measured drawings in hand. They did not pay Whitney his required royalties, nor did individuals who made their own gins. Whitney tried to take the violators to court, but he used up all his profits in fighting their patent infringements. Although it was a very simple and successful invention, Whitney's gin was a patent failure.


American Cotton Culture

When George Washington was president the cotton gin launched a sweeping migration across the South. Within a half century, slaves and masters, rich and poor, established what Southerners called the Cotton Kingdom. From the Carolinas, where tobacco and rice had long dominated agriculture, to Louisiana, where sugar production made its start during the Revolutionary era, cotton plantations and slavery grew side by side with family farms. In significant ways, cotton shaped antebellum U.S. history, both in the South, where it was grown, and in the North, where wage earners manufactured it into cloth. Its cultivation fuelled the westward movement and reinvigorated slavery, and the issues generated over free trade and the tariff, slavery and freedom, states rights, and nationalism contributed to the Civil War.

The war destroyed slavery, and sharecropping--an arrangement that allowed landlord and tenant to share the proceeds of the crop--emerged as the dominant labor system. Landlords, bankers, insurance companies, and credit merchants controlled ever larger areas of the rural south. Cotton moved westward, spurred not only by economic forces but also by the invasion of the boll weevil into Texas and the Southeast. Everywhere cotton went, it reordered time and work, forcing all growers, regardless of wealth, into an annual cycle that included land preparation and planting in the spring, cultivation through early summer, and picking, ginning, and marketing in the autumn.

Many cotton growers, especially sharecroppers, lived hard lives and depended on friends and community for support. But, they made time for worship, visiting, and music. Scholars now realize that they created an exceedingly rich and important culture. Country music and blues, for example, are now recognized as unique contributions to American life. Southern novelists, shaped by the traditions that surrounded them, often used the rural South as the setting for their work.

The way of life that had matured over a century and a half began to unravel in the 1930s as New Deal policies cut production, reduced the labor force, and encouraged mechanization. World War II opened defense jobs to rural people, and others joined the armed forces. Most never returned to the land. After the war, the mechanical cotton picker and chemical herbicides revolutionized rural work and drastically reduced the need for hand labor.

Cotton cultivation today relies upon capital more than labor; it bears little resemblance to the old culture that faded away in the 1940s and '50s.

From "Rhythm of the Land: The Legacy of the Cotton Culture," brochure, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, 1984


"Pick a Bale of Cotton"

"Pick a Bale of Cotton" from the recording entitled Get on Board: Negro Folksongs by the Folkmasters, Folkways FP 2028, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. © 1952. Used by permission.

"Pick a Bale" has been classed as a work song but it also was used frequently during slave times as a dance tune or reel. As a work song it has a "John Henry" twist in that the lyric speaks of picking a bale of cotton a day, an impossible task for one person. This version of the song is credited to the late Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter and is more of a joyous dance interpretation than a work lament. Sonny Terry sings the verse over and over with the other two singers filling in a low chanted background.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 08:16 PM

Mis-information in my post of 2:05 PM. Just listened to the Rev. Mose Platt sing this perky little work song on the Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip (American Memory, Library of Congress). He used the phrase "jump down turn around, pick a bale a day."
The version is quite different from the one ascribed to 'Clear Rock' (Platt) in Lomax, ABFS 1934, which has the Shiloh verse, but not the 'jump around' phrase. I can't find a recording listed for Platt before 1939. Platt could have changed his lyrics, or those in Lomax could be a 'combined' version put together by Lomax- which has happened before. His recording of the song in his "Deep River of Song" collection lists an "unknown axe-cutting group" as singing the song.
The Traditional Ballad Index lists a 1933 recording by James "Iron Head" Baker, which I haven't heard, as the first record of the song.
Does anyone have the words to this one?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 08:52 PM

"They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn't a good memory."

And that's why it's a memory to preserve and hold on to. It's a song about black workers refusing to be ground down by slave drivers, and their successors after the formal end of slavery.

If they were singing it in a way that seemed to airbrush the oppression out of it, and suggest it was all happy folk singing their hearts out in a time that was really pretty good, it'd be quite right to object to that - and for all you can tell from what I've seen that might be what it was happening.

hat quote there rather suggests that that might have been the case: "It's like a Southern type of folk song. I remember it being perky. It was more of a song that people just sang for fun".

Treating it as "perky" and "fun" seems to show a lack of respect and sensitivity, where respect and sensitivity is important - becuiasde it is a song that should be "...bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton", and those are not memories that no American, black or white, should see as "happy".


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: David Ingerson
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 09:10 PM

From China's comments, it appears that the teacher never put the song in its historical and cultural context for the students or led a discussion about its implications or people's reactions and feelings about it.

This is one result of one of the main problems in education today, IMO (and an informed opinion it is, having been an elementary and middle school teacher for 18 years): few, if any, connections are made between "disciplines." So this is music class and we don't talk about history or culture--that's in the social studies class (and we don't deal with slavery until US history in 5th grade)--or emotions (only the school counselor or psych does that!).

Mary's idea of inviting the offended parties into the class to talk about their feelings and why they feel that way--their perspective--is a great one. My guess, though, is that China's father's call was transferred to the principal instead of to the teacher and it immediately became a political and public relations problem instead of an educational and cultural opportunity.

Too bad. Handled properly, the students themselves, after hearing all sides (all, not just two), could have decided themselves if they wanted to do it. What a profound opportunity was missed.

All the best,

David


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 09:33 PM

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.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 09:41 PM

Someone above said that it was the fault of the American education system.

This could be true.

Now, ask yourself which type of political agenda has had this kind of influence on education. Liberal or conservative?

Is that the backfire of a car I hear?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:06 PM

I stongly agree with David Ingerson's points.

However, I would also say that even putting a song like this in context would make it still difficult for some African Americans like me to accept it.

I think it is because the words used then have different connotations now. When I was much younger-when I didn't know my "roots and culture" I remember using the expression "Lordy Miss Claudie!" .I guess this is from some other song..

But now in my old age "Lordy Miss Claudie" and the "Oh Lordy!" in "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" are "muddied" for me with the stigma of Stephin Fetchet.

So should "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" be sung just for fun in schools-I don't think so.

Should the song be used as a cultural, historical folklorist lesson in schools. I say yes.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Joybell
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:10 PM

"Lordy Miss Claudie" - Was a sung by Little Richard (I think it was him wasn't it?) around the time we 60-year-olds were teenagers.

Thinking as a dance caller - and this is pure speculation on my part -"Pick a bale of cotton" following a direction like "Jump down turn around" sounds to me a lot like a filler. As in: "Chicken in the breadbox pickin' up dough".

Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: Ferrara
Date: 15 Nov 05 - 12:27 AM

Azizi wrote, I certainly feel that that school district showed a remarkable lack of foresight in selecting "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" as representative of African American folk culture.

I don't think for a minute that the choir director intended this to be a statement about cotton picking, or about the African American experience. I suspect it was just seen as a folk-based choral piece with an up-tempo. In other words they just thought the song was cute, it fit the program, and it would sound good and the audience would enjoy it.

I think it was a bad choice. If their intention was to show an African-American folk song, or a song in the context of slavery, there are plenty of spirituals that have been given choral settings. If they just want a familiar American folk song, there are plenty of Stephen Foster songs that would be enjoyed by the entire audience. This is a school, folks, not a folk music festival. Schools need to take a lot of issues into account.

On the other hand, if you refused ever to sing anything with potential ethnic insults in its content, I suspect you'd have to drop about a third of American folk music. IMHO, though, those songs should be reserved for occasions where folk traditions and/or history are central to the event. I don't believe China's family -- or anyone else -- said the song should be banned, just that it was a bad song for a concert at a school.

You can carry political correctness too far, and in our world that happens way too frequently. Still, consideration for other people's feelings counts too. For instance, those of us who love Stephen Foster's songs usually give them a good scrubbing before we sing them. Too many of the words, while they were accepted even as late as the early 1940's, are not acceptable now. I have a CD sent to me by a Civil War re-enactor, as a thank-you for suggestions I made about re-phrasing some of Foster's more objectionable wording. These issues are worth giving some consideration when you choose what you will present to a particular group.

Respect and disrespect are very important issues for people whose ethnic group has been on the receiving end of a lot of disrespect. Sometimes it's worth bending over backwards to be considerate. The song felt like an insult to one family, and I don't think they were way out of line (I am sure they have no ideas of its origins and derivation, only of how it sounds to them), and I am glad the school decided not to perform it. I don't see anything in this song that is worth defending the school's right to perform it; there is no obvious moral high ground here on either side, just a compromise over people's feelings.

I recently talked with someone who was hurt badly by a "cute" song with really negative implications about their ethnic group. The singer would never have knowingly and deliberately insulted someone else, but thought the song was "cute" and didn't realize their audience included someone who would be affected badly by it. She has decided to stop singing that song. Period. Sometimes a good rule is, when in doubt, leave it out.

Rita F


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 Nov 05 - 04:13 AM

This appears to be a song originated by black writers and black performers. So, the argument seems to go, it is insensitive for a "predominantly white" choir to perform it.

How might the reverse argument go down?

As a piece of hypersensitive stupidity this event is on a par with "Festive Seasonal Greetings of the religion of your choice"!


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton
From: greg stephens
Date: 15 Nov 05 - 05:41 AM

Hearing Leadbelly singing this song is a stupendous life-affirming experience. It is profoundly moving, profoundly exciting, and other people have leaned this song from his singing and shared a little of the magic by singing it themselves. To try to deny this experience to others(especially children) seems a depressingly sad ambition. having said that, this is a song about an experience in life whwich is not fun. So, yes, children being encouraged to sing it should know a little backgrounmd. But they absolutely definitely should be encouraged to sing it.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Nov 05 - 01:10 PM

Greg, the children should learn also that the 'experience in life' was not confined to African-Americans. European-American (white) farmers, share croppers and seasonal field hands also enjoyed the warm, sunny days picking cotton, from Arizona to Kansas to Florida, before the machines took over.

I guess my wife should feel pc pangs whenever she uses one of her favorite expressions- "Now wait just a cotton-pickin' minute!"


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: Ferrara
Date: 15 Nov 05 - 01:43 PM

There's no reason kids can't learn the song -- in context. No context was provided in this situation.

I tried earlier to make the point that very likely no one in this situation knew the origins of the song, whether it was originally "written" or "collected," whether it was a minstrel song or a prison work song, etc. The African-American family felt the song perpetuated a racial stereotype and degraded the slave experience. The school personnel didn't think about it at all, and didn't do any research after the protest was made.

That would all be helpful but ... as you can see, we don't have that kind of thinking here.

This is not a sophisticated venue! Schools use folk songs in choral settings all the time. I have never heard of a choir director who saw them as history or folk expression, they are just a piece of music in this context and are not used as a vehicle for teaching history -- in the chorus classes, at least. If it had been put in its historical context in the first place, maybe the African-American family would have felt differently.

The question of whether an African-American originated the song really is way off to the side. The question never came up and probably no one involved thought to ask where the song came from.

(Remember, people like us who pay this much attention to folk music are very rare. That's why Mudcat has been so valuable and important to us all. We can find each other.)

The underlying question of why Americans don't learn about folk music, and worse, don't teach the history of slavery in a deeper, more thoughtful context, or try to teach that it has left very painful emotional baggage that people still deal with, belongs below the line, right next to "how has the world gotten dumbed down so far in half a century?"

I wish it were different. But that is up to the history and other teachers and won't be changed in a chorus class. I think the family did well to make a strong statement by taking their kid out of the class. They might have done it all better, but this way at least people are thinking a little bit more on the subject.

Maybe they'll even care enough to find out where the song came from. And learn that cotton picking was not exclusively a slave task. And learn more of the history of farm workers. Maybe.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 15 Nov 05 - 01:58 PM

"Now, ask yourself which type of political agenda has had this kind of influence on education. Liberal or conservative?"

Does it really matter? Schools should be giving facts and not following some party line. While it does seem like conservatives are trying to force their values into the classroom (witness the new battles with evolution and creationism), I like to think that most teachers do not use the classroom as a soapbox. Maybe I was lucky, but schools in my day taught me to think for myself and how to find information.

If we have to pick sides, I would hope that liberal education (not liberal or conservative politics) are taught in schools. Based on the definition of the word, we would like to see students questioning data and ideas and not following a conservative approach which would seem to stick to one side of the story.

I may have misunderstood the point you were trying to make Martin, and if so, please forgive me.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Nov 05 - 03:18 PM

Kaleea, Lead Belly also did a bang-up job on "Cotton Fields (Back Home)"
Roots Index
or go to Lead Belly tracks (21 of them): Tracks


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Nov 05 - 05:05 PM

I grew up amongst Southerners, both black and white, who had picked cotton before coming North to work in the factories--Like all farm work,it was hard work and the pay was bad.

Universally, they were proud of that they'd picked cotton--and regarded the strength that the work required, and its humbleness as important factors in building character and moral fortitude. They were skeptical of those who hadn't done the same kind of work.

They also would have shaken their heads at the above mentioned Mr. Montgomery, because(and this is a paraphrase of a comment that I heard many, many times) they felt that he was ashamed of them, and didn't want to be reminded of the the kind of work that they had done to educate him and give him opportunities that they never had--


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: David Ingerson
Date: 16 Nov 05 - 04:53 PM

Thanks, M.Ted, for that illuminating perspective. Your post shows how important ones perspective is, and, as a corollary, how important it is to understand others' perspectives.

That's one reason I appreciate your forthright contributions, Azizi. Even I, as a European-American, am embarrassed by step 'n fetchit scenes in some of the movies I've seen (and some of the people I've met). I'm sure that white guilt plays a part in those feelings. But I'd also like to point out that I feel just as embarrassed, or maybe disgusted, when whites engage in the same subservient sorts of behavior. Of course, it's not entirely the same. We must remember we are dealing with a whole group of people who have had to struggle against oppression and racism and that backdrop must be considered when dealing with problems like this.

That brings me back to the point I made above: broadly, that education is much better when it is inclusive rather that exclusive. Including the various perspectives of different communities or groups, whether cultural, racial, or economic, will make for a richer and more personally relevant education.

David


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Terry K
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 02:45 AM

At the end of the day, it's a good song.

Some people may be offended when they analyse the words and find deep meanings which affect them and their culture.

On the other hand, I would be deeply offended if any good song had to cease to exist because of some people being offended by it.

There's a lot of stuff going on out there that I find offensive, but I just have to accept that life's like that.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST,MikeofNorthumbria(sans cookie)
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 07:29 AM

Hi Folks,

A lot of wisdom in this thread – I wish more people could read it. The level of historical ignorance displayed by many people today - including not a few politicians - is very depressing.   I say this not just as a history teacher, but as a concerned citizen. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana.)

On the subject of slavery and guilt – many people don't realise that for centuries this was very much a two-way street. For example, in the largest church in Reykjavik, you can see a plaque commemorating 25 Icelanders who were kidnapped by Moorish pirates, and eventually ransomed by the King of Denmark.   

It's a long row from Morocco to Iceland, and the Corsairs rarely got that far. But throughout the middle ages, and well into the 1600s, they regularly raided English coastal villages and carried off anyone they could catch to sell in the slave markets of North Africa. Prisoners who had rich or influential relatives usually got ransomed – the rest stayed. Some historians estimate that, over a period of several centuries, almost half a million English people were enslaved in this way. (Though I've not read than any of them picked cotton.)

People with legitimate grievances in the here and now have every right to seek redress, but in my opinion they do themselves no favours by invoking the sufferings of their remote forbears in attempts to monopolise the moral high ground. All of us, if we look back far enough, have ancestors whose behaviour we would now see as regrettable, as well as ancestors who suffered injustices at the hands of others.

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Cool Beans
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 09:05 AM

What a great discussion. By the way, I live in the school district in question, about a mile-and-a-half from Anderson Middle School. My kids aren't invovled; they graduated a few years ago.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Snuffy
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 09:32 AM

I sometimes sing a version mocking the highly-paid singer who wouldn't know hard work if he fell over it, with verses like:

Me and my hairstylist gonna pick a bale of cotton
Me and my make-up artist ...
Me and my sound man ...
Me and my voice coach ...
Me and my personal trainer ...
Me and my feng shui consultant ...


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Tweed
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 09:47 AM

Leadbelly was neither a slave nor a sharecropper. His people owned land along the Louisiana/Texas border since after the civil war. He no doubt picked cotton, just like us farm boys baled hay in the midwest. A shit job either way, but put some money in the pocket. (a 1/2 cent a bale, if I remember right). It's a work song designed to make a shit job feel easier than what it was. I can sort of see where they're coming from, but it's history and illustrates a way of dealing with whatever shit job you may find yourself doing. I think mebbe they're thinking too much about this thing, but I'm not an African American and therefore have little insight into what that's really about.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 12:00 PM

"The level of historical ignorance displayed by many people today - including not a few politicians - is very depressing."

The trouble with people today is that we speak in absolutes. We fail to look at both sides of the story. I agree, our educational system can lack perspective and unfortunately fails to teach the whole story.   On the other hand, we tend to dismiss peoples feelings and ignore how our actions will impact on others - solely because we feel that "right" is in our corner.   

What we have here is a failure to communicate.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 02:29 PM

"What we have here is a failure to communicate."

Great line from "Cool Hand Luke", ain't it?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 02:31 PM

you got it... now part of our folklore


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 02:35 PM

"our educational system can lack perspective and unfortunately fails to teach the whole story"

True, Ron. However, something most people fail to take into account is that schools do not set their own curricula. They are set by the State or Province. Now, schools have inhereted the responsibility of teaching kids about crossing streets, traffic lights, body cleanliness and a gang of other things that should likely have been taught in the home. The fact that a person doesn't know something is not always the fault of a school. It is sometimes the fault of a society. IMO.

The above is not directed at you.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST,Cary Ginell
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 03:19 PM

I sent this letter to the Superintendent of schools, their PR spokesperson, the NAACP, and the Detroit News that reported the story.

I live in Thousand Oaks, California and saw the article from Associated Press in our local paper concerning your problems with the song "Pick a Bale of Cotton," which had been scheduled in your folk music choir program. As a folklorist, educator, and music historian, I deplore your removing this song from the program simply because of a few complaints from people who apparently are unaware of the song's history and context. "Pick a Bale of Cotton" (also known as "Jump Down Spin Around")was certainly not a slave song, it was what is known in folklore as a "playparty song," one that was performed during the labor of picking cotton, which was done by both blacks and whites in the South before machinery took over this laborious chore. The lyrics have nothing to do with slavery, nor can the song be traced back that far. The song is attributed to Huddie Ledbetter (aka "Leadbelly"), one of our country's most honored African-American folk singers. Leadbelly was an inmate in the Texas prison system in the early 1930s when he was interviewed at length by folklorist John Lomax, who got him a release because of his knowledge of African-American folk songs. He proceeded to take Leadbelly on tour promoting these songs, of which "Pick a Bale of Cotton" was one. Urban folk music societies learned many traditional American folk songs from Leadbelly. Eventually it became a staple in the repertoires of Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte, two individuals not known for performing "racist" songs.

The ignorance shown by the parents in your district as well as your own inability to defend our American musical heritage is a symptom of a wider malady in this country regarding our social history as it relates to music. If you're going to cut "Pick a Bale of Cotton," why stop there? Let's forget all about Stephen Foster and his attempts to tame the harsh, racist songs of minstrelsy by showing sympathy for slaves and their culture. Let's cut George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" because of its rude depiction of African-American dialect; let's eliminate "Ol' Man River" from Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II's "Showboat," our first groundbreaking American musical, because it speaks directly of slavery. And while we're at it, let's eliminate every spiritual born in the South in the 19th century, which also remind us of the slaves' plight.

I taught American music history to students from 1st to 6th grades for two years in the Conejo Valley Unified School District here in California. During this time, I taught children about where the music came from, historically and socially. I taught about the history of spirituals, the deplorably racist entertainment that came out of minstrelsy, which lasted until the 1940s in this country. I taught about where the blues came from, played sanctified preachers' sermons, gospel music, how ragtime emerged from elements of slavery, and jazz as well. They absolutely loved the class, would tell their parents about it, ask to hear more of the music, learn the songs and sing them back to me. They learned what a "hootenanny" was, they learned about Tin Pan Alley, about the origins of the "cakewalk," and how African Americans played a part in the history of recorded sound.

Leadbelly's music is as important to today's students as "The Star Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America." If we had an educational system that encouraged rather than discouraged teaching students about our own music, kids would be a lot more sensitive to what is going on around them not only in the schools but in everyday life. Don't kill off our heritage. It's what should be making us proud to be Americans and what we've done to overcome our prejudices.

Feel free to pass this letter on to your students, your local NAACP chapter, the press, and anyone else who would be interested. I will be happy to address any questions about this issue. Music education is my life and I can't stand seeing ignorance and blind political correctness erase a rich and valuable part of our musical heritage.

Cary Ginell


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: beardedbruce
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 03:27 PM

Hear, Hear!


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Joybell
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 04:27 PM

Cary, thank you. Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: wysiwyg
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 04:40 PM

I am not in favor of bans, but sometimes people need to realize that they are subject to folks electing to "vote with their feet," and if one starts to hear that a large number of people are contemplating doing just that-- this might be a piece of information one might want to consider in choosing material.

It's very complicated when one culture borrows a piece of another culture, and makes it its own. The process of this occurring is subtle.... and not about blame, IMO.

But I would ask people to think about this-- if someone takes an icon you hold dear, and bastardizes it-- how do you feel about that, yourself?

Is it so hard to understand why people might not appreciate folks popularizing an item without regard for its original setting and sense? Assume for a moment that the objections have nothing to do with your motive.... How many of the singers of this song, in today's world, are actually familiar with picking a bale of cotton? Is the song really going to be used to make the job easier, as might have been the case in the original setting of the song?

It's this atmosphere of blame/defensiveness that precludes harmony. I might not mean to run over you with my car; but if I do it, don't you think people might think it only natural if you yelp?

Why do we say "This isn't what I meant" instead of hearing that someone has first said to us, "This hurts me really, really deeply"?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST,martin gibson
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 05:23 PM

Ron, it's really the same kind of politcal correctness found in the schools today that have made it so offensive to say "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The schools and society itself, driven by far-left liberal ACLU types have made it so we can't even think something without offending someone or some special interest group.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 05:30 PM

"I sent this letter to the Superintendent of schools, their PR spokesperson, the NAACP, and the Detroit News that reported the story."

Great. Excellent letter. It will end up in the 'square file', but you spoke well, even if no one listens.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 05:32 PM

Martin, I think it is mixing apples and oranges.   I don't disagree with you about political correctness creeping in. People need to rely on their own common sense and morality. Screw the doctrine. I just skip saying "under god" if it bothers me.   Loyalty oaths bother me to begin with.

I feel that teachers need to continue to challenge kids to think for themselves and not follow some silly doctrine that has us thinking in terms of left/right.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 05:46 PM

I can only feel disappointment and disgust with an educational system that has failed to teach children about the social and industrial history of their country. Why aren't children and their parents familiar with what was involved in picking a bale of cotton? Why don't they know "what I meant"?
Cotton was a large part of American (and English) history. Not only should we know about the field workers, black, white and aboriginal, but all those who worked in the mills and sweatshops and who turned the cotton into fibers and then into the clothes we wore, the cloths we put on our tables, the shelters used by our explorers, soldiers and recreationists, the cotton seed and oil used in feed and industry. Now much of the cotton industry has been passed to the so-called Third World, but that does not excuse ignorance about industries that involved hand labor.

Should we eliminate all song that accompanied hard, hand labor? A good letter, Cary. But the ignorance that you write about shouldn't exist.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 06:00 PM

it's about re-writing history so some won't be offended by the truth


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 07:05 PM

Martin-
As one who was around when the McCarthyites put "under God" into the pledge, I can only say that the addition did nothing at all to the scansion.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: Jeri
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 07:06 PM

Cary, that letter says it all, and I really hope the people you sent it to read it.

Communication works in both directions. If someone tells me they're offended by a song, I'll try to understand why. If they make a real attempt to explain, I'll listen and continue to try to understand. If it comes down to 'I really don't know why it bothers me. It just does,' the offense may lie only with them, somewhere in that tendency we all have to be offended by things that other people think should offend us - even if nobody can explain why. Perhaps the person being offended might then question why they ARE offended just as the non-offended have questioned their own non-reactions.

In the end, even if the offended remain offended and the people who don't understand still don't understand, people had the opportunity to question their own feelings. Something, at least, has been accomplished.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Scoville
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 09:07 PM

I've got mixed feelings about Mr. Ginell's letter. Ideally, I wouldn't want to ban the song because I agree that kids ought to be taught more about the origins and context of it (about almost everything, really). The best way to take any sting out of something like that is to put it in perspective.

On the other hand, we all seem to agree that nobody bothered to do that (and, since it's not included in standardized testing, they aren't likely to remedy that failure). I have to admit I find it particularly offensive that the school is in a mostly white, Northern city that had nothing to do with the cotton trade in the first place, and had not given much thought to the meaning of the song beyond its face value.

So, as sick as I am of everything being PC-fied, I'm also sick of people appropriating cultural material without any regard for, or apparent interest in, its origins and more intimate meanings. Yes, there were plenty of white people who picked cotton--I hear that Tammy Wynette kept a bowl of it in her house to remind herself of how far she had come--but the song is African-American. Old stereotypes die pretty hard.

I have to admit I get a annoyed when the occasional Western movie or TV episode features Quaker characters and always seems to depict them either as cowards (male) or intolerable prudes (female) because we are pacifists and traditionally wear plain clothes, without incorporating any meaningful aspect of our beliefs.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: mg
Date: 17 Nov 05 - 11:46 PM

What is the history of this town, since you have established it has no connection with cotton? I did try to do a google search but my computer is so slow that it wouldn't give me anything...dairy? cherry farms? logging? mining? I bet you anything that whoever settled there had some incredibly hard jobs to do, of course, not under the conditions of slavery, but I would bet that people there know about hard work. mg


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 12:21 AM

Berkley is a suburb of Detroit, 95% white, 0.7% black, 1.3% Hispanic. Median household income $57,000 plus. Bachelor's degree, 35%. Ancestry- German and Irish largest groups.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 10:20 AM

In their next performance, they'll be doing the "Horst Wessel" song.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 10:31 AM

"If someone tells me they're offended by a song, I'll try to understand why. If they make a real attempt to explain, I'll listen and continue to try to understand. If it comes down to 'I really don't know why it bothers me. It just does,' the offense may lie only with them"

That is very true, however in this case the offended parties did give their reasons - and it was more than "I really don't know why it just does".


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 10:34 AM

The choice of song was NOT a good choice. They'll know better next time, right? RIGHT?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Tam the man
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 10:48 AM

I'm a lefty here in Scotland and yet I hate the P.C brigade as well.

I just wish they would listen to themselves.

Tom


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Tam the man
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM

there's a oraganisizan that I belong to called the Ayrshire CND

and they're PC and they say WAGED AND UNWAGED instead of working and not working, oh by the way I'm NOT a member of the New Labour Party either


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: s&r
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 11:46 AM

This is fascinating


Stu


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST,Cary Ginell
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 01:06 PM

Not giving up on this yet. I've received a response from the superintendent of schools for the Michigan district that Anderson Middle School belongs to. She sent me a copy of the speech she gave right before the concert. Here it is:
************

Hello, my name is Tresa Zumsteg and I am the superintendent of the Berkley School District. I would like to welcome you to our wonderful folk music concert this evening. Our students have worked very hard to provide you with a quality performance that demonstrates their ability to sing folk songs from different cultures.

I know that most of you are aware that we had some controversy concerning the song, Pick a Bale of Cotton. And I want to address this issue with you. Whether you believe I made the right decision or not when I pulled the song, I want to share with you my thoughts.

As educators, it is our responsibility to teach children about our history and our culture. Music, of course, plays a very important role in both our history and culture. Sadly, there have been events in our past that have not made us proud. Music reflects our past and our culture for better or for worse.

For this particular concert, our music teachers organized the concert around a folk music theme. Their goals included educating our children regarding the roots of folk music. Folk music is one way for people to remember events that occurred in their history and their culture. Another goal, of course, was for our students to become more skilled in their singing abilities. There was never any intent on the teachers' part nor on this district's part to make any of our students or their families feel uncomfortable.

However, what I have learned in the past couple of days is that while all music has a historical context; music also has a very personal and emotional context.

For example, I find the song Amazing Grace a very comforting song as it was the song played at my mother's passing. My friend, who lost a brother in the 9/11 attacks, finds the song Amazing Grace very painful as it was often the song that accompanied the televised pictures of that awful event. While I find the song a comfort, she finds the song painful. Our personal histories play an important role in how we interpret music.

The song, Pick a Bale of Cotton is a well-known "work song" created by African-Americans during times of slavery. Indeed, famous African-American songster Leadbelly, is the person who made the song famous during the 20th century. It is written that he believed the song to represent strength, endurance and resistance to oppression.

Even acknowledging this history, an individual, because of his personal history, may interpret this song, with its upbeat tempo, as mocking the back breaking work of picking cotton.

I don't believe that we can judge one's personal response that a particular song may evoke. Just as I find the song, Amazing Grace comforting and my friend finds the song painful.   I know as a school district we can certainly define the educational reasons for choosing our musical selections, but I do think we need to be careful not to judge another person's individual response to a song.

I knew with this particular song, Pick a Bale of Cotton that we were not going to be able to eliminate the strong personal responses to this song by describing the history of the song. Keeping the song in the concert would have focused our concert on a controversy that appears to have no quick resolution rather than having the focus on the singing skills of our children. And while I believe very much that we need to continue the discussion on why this song evokes such strong reactions from people and what are the underlying causes for these reactions, I feel that this evening should be for enjoying our children's singing abilities. Thank you.
**************
Cary here once again,

I've responded to this backsliding by contacting Smithsonian Folkways Records and asking them to forward a copy of a Leadbelly CD with full explanations of the songs to the little girl in care of the middle school. Short of that, I would, with SF's permission, make a CD copy of an early 10" LP Folkways put out after Leadbelly died of some of his seminal songs. The girl should be able to make up her own mind whether or not the songs are racist. She's 11 and already has a good sense of history (4th and 5th graders are already into local and national history). Any African American should be proud of Leadbelly's work in preserving their folk heritage. Their songs had purposes, this one included, and it is something that should be worn as a badge of honor, not swept under the rug because it reminds people of a horrible time in American history. School is supposed to be for education - and education has taken a big hit in this school. We'll see what happens. I'll keep everyone posted.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 01:08 PM

Thank you very much, Cary.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 01:28 PM

Cary, I think you are missing the point Tresa Zumsteg was making.   I am so glad you posted that letter, because it has given me a different take on the situation. You may call it "backsliding", but I am reading what appears to be a very honest letter which has no solution that would make everyone happy.

I believe she addressed the very issues that you are bringing up and she is allowing students to make up their own mind.   Including that song, after what has become a national controversy, would take away from what the students were trying to accomplish. It isn't fair to the students to take away from their work, just to prove a political point.

I would bet good money that this song has now been discussed in schools, and you are probably way too late to get them a copy of Lead Belly's recording. (As long as we are talking historical signficance and teaching correctness, Huddie Ledbetter always spelled it as two words - Lead Belly.)    From what I am reading in that letter, I would bet that the song has been discussed from every angle with the students - not only in that school, but in schools across the country.

Maybe there is hope for the future after all.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: Ferrara
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 02:10 PM

Wow. Cary, I was impressed that you wrote to her, and I am also very impressed by Ms. Zumsteg's speech, which seems to take a look at most of the points of view that have been discussed in this thread. It seems the people at the school have been doing some real thinking. They are trying to use this incident productively and instructively, instead of just complaining or sweeping it under the rug. No, I don't see it as backsliding either, Ron. I see it as responding positively and pro-actively to a knotty and somewhat complex problem.

Thank you for passing on the text of the speech.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 04:45 PM

Just a nylon-pickin' minute. "Pick a Bale of Cotton", per se, has and had nothing to do with slavery. It was first sung, as far as we know, by a black singer who may or may not have composed it, but he certainly wasn't picking cotton at the time. It also, regarless of who composed it, not a song about blacks only.

This sounds to much like the fuss that occurred a couple of years back on a bluegrass site when someone decided that the line in Groundhog
"Up jumped Sal with a snigger and a grin" was really about a black slave owned by someone named Sal.

It also puts me to mind of the college professor who got fired for using the word "niggardly", which has a perfectly fine Swedish lineage and has nothing at all to do with Afro-Americans.

Get, if you'll pardon the expression, real.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 05:14 PM

Dick, the swastika was not created by the Nazi's either, they incorporated the symbol and it became a symbol of hate.   The symbol is still used by some cultures, but it can obviously make people feel very uncomfortable.

Whether "Pick a Bale of Cotton" was a slave song or not is not the issue (and now you have me wondering about it's origin), but the story is how it made some YOUNG students feel.   After reading the speech, I think the school made the right choice to pull it. It appears that they are also teaching the students the history of slaverly and why that song was controversial.   That is what counts.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 05:17 PM

Actually, here is the written introduction Lead Belly used in the notes to this song: "Now this was when I was around Dallas, Texas, pickin' cotton. I was pickin' a thousand pounds of cotton a day. And the way you get a thousand pounds of cotton a day, you've got to jump around to get it. You can't fool around and pick a thousand pounds of cotton a day."

I think that Ms. Zumsteg meant well in her speech and was trying to make the best out of a prickly situation, so I'm not entirely unsympathetic. The problem stems from the presentation. The school's theme - folk songs from around the world - didn't seem to take into account the fact that most folk songs have purposes behind them, a heady subject in many cases for middle schoolers to grasp. But why not? I wouldn't go and play "Strange Fruit" for them, but a show focusing on Lead Belly and his music would certainly be more relevant for kids than a lot of other stuff I've heard my own kids singing in school shows. It all boils down to how they approach their music educational teaching. Not knowing how they went about it, it's hard for me to make a judgment. But I still think that they took the cowardly way out by agreeing with the parents to censor a very innocuous song.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 05:27 PM

I don't think they were cowardly at all.   No matter what decision they made, they would lose.   Their decision was a response to a YOUNG African-American student who felt uncomfortable with the memories that the song brings out.   To respect that students right, and at the same time respect the rights of all the students, I feel deserves to be applauded - not called "cowardly".   The girl in question is 11 years old. Without knowing the students, I would bet good money that the remaining students did not feel any lose at not singing the song, and if it made just ONE child feel comfortable without upsetting the others, they did the right thing. There is absolutely no need to use children as political footballs.

Guest, I think you are wrong to say that the school "didn't seem to take into account the fact that most folk songs have purposes behind them". I think that is just the opposite of their point - as Zumsteg said "Folk music is one way for people to remember events that occurred in their history and their culture." I'm glad they recognize that fact.   As you yourself said, it is probably not appropriate to teach them Strange Fruit at that age, but they have to start somewhere. They made a choice for ONE song and they caused this controversy.

How do they approach their musical teaching? If you read the speech, I think it is wonderful to hear that they are teaching folk music in the schools.   Many schools avoid it these days, sad to say.   Good for them for giving it a shot.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Joybell
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 05:31 PM

"I feel that this evening should be for enjoying our children's singing abilities"
By the time of the concert it seems that there was no choice and it had to be this way. It was a lot of power to place in the hands of an eleven year old, I'm thinking. Can't help feeling sad about the future for singers.

"Pick a bale of cotton" is hardly a symbol (like the swastika - especially not like a swastika) any more than "Shear a hundred sheep in a day" is a symbol of convict labour. Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 06:19 PM

Swastika was commonly used in weavings and jewelry by the Navajo until WW2, a symbol of life. Recently, it has started to re-appear as traditionalists are asking for its restoration.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST,the old pooperoo
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 06:34 PM

well of course that song should be suppressed if it offends somebody. not only should it be suppressed, but we should search out all books that feature it, and burn them in a big fire. and as long as we've got a fire going, we might as well burn all the other books that have offended people -- the works of voltaire, tom paine, jefferson, burke, mark twain, ralph nader, marx, freud, darwin, hume, and of course salman rushdie -- i'm sure we'll have no trouble finding more.
we can all join hands around the fire and chant DIE SCHUNDSCHRIFTEN MUSSEN VERSCHWINDERN! ok?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 06:35 PM

Joy, I did not mean to infer that it was an actual symbol as a swastika, but it does stir up images. Withness the use of the song in films.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 06:36 PM

Holy shit, nobody is saying to SUPPRESS THE DAMN SONG!!!


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 06:37 PM

The song was causing a problem with at least one child in a specific school.   The audiencd was young. There are complex issues that are not appropriate


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 06:54 PM

"At the start of the war the division had another patch, one showing a Native American sign and reflecting the division's Texas and Oklahoma National Guards origin. But the powers in Washington told the division that it had to replace the patch with something else. The original patch had a crooked cross, better known in the WWII era as a swastika, and this would not do for men destined for hard fighting against the Nazi war machine. The Texas/Oklahoma men agreed and chose the thunderbird. My reference for this is my late uncle, Private Eugene Bondurant, who served with the 45th Division in WWII."


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Joybell
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 06:55 PM

I once had an experience similar to the one noted by the teacher involved in all of this. I was singing at a restaurant - going from table to table. I sang "The Black Velvet band" for a pair of women. No reason. They hadn't made a request. One of them burst into tears. It had been her husband's favourite song. He'd been dead exactly a year. Her friend had taken her out so that she wouldn't be alone at home by herself that night. Leaving aside the strange coincidence ....it makes me wonder OOOOOH it makes me wonder...
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 07:16 PM

"WAGED AND UNWAGED instead of working and not working" - and there's something wrong with that?

The point behind that surely is that there is one hellopf a lt of work, and a lot of it the most important work there is, which doesn't involve getting wages. Saying that someone who is putting in all God's hours doing that kind of stuff is "not working" is both ludicrous and insulting. (And at the other end there are people pulling in large salaries of whiom it is equally ludicrous to refer to them as "working".)


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 09:52 PM

Ron-
I'm sorry that the young African-American was made uncomfortable by the song. I'm sure that many folks--including myself--were made uncomfortable by the its being censored.

My point is that people who get offended by things that aren't offensive have problems that are best dealt with by education and explanation, not by censorship. Go back and think about the two examples I quoted above; Should "Groundhog" be similarly removed from the repetoire? Should "niggardly" be removed from the language?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: Ferrara
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 10:30 PM

mmmm ... "things that aren't offensive" is in the ear of the beholder. Niggardly is fast disappearing from the language, and I have felt for a long time that the main reason is it no longer in use is that is sounds like the N-word as Aaron McGruder calls it. People don't want to say it.

People used to refer to the "limbs" of a piano because, I suppose, they thought "legs" had the potential to evoke prurient images. People in different eras are offended by different stuff. Mostly the stuff that offends people isn't inherently or universally offensive.

Well, except maybe for really gross stuff that most people would never do anyway, because they KNOW it would cause serious offense.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 11:06 PM

I'm sorry Dick, but I feel you are missing the point. I don't disagree with you and your points about the songs.   But that is not the point of this issue. There is no reason to make children pawns in a silly battle over definitions and politics.   

Because you are uncomfortable about a song NOT being sung, a child should be made to feel uncomfortable by having it sung? I think we are all a bit older and wiser and can understand reasons, but why make children suffer?

The bottom line is, the song was NOT censored.   The song is still available, they just did not sing it in their concert. That is NOT censorship,that is common decency. The school still discussed the issue and did not hide from the facts.   Singing the song would serve no purpose.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Nov 05 - 11:34 PM

Let me throw out a question.

Let us say you are at a song circle. You decide to sing "Pick a Bale of Cotton". Someone stops you and says they are uncomfortable with the song.   After you give your points on how the song is not about slavery, it is a dance song, a song that was sung by many prominent African-American musicians, etc. - let's say that person said the song still makes them feel uncomfortable. Would you go ahead and sing it anyway?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: Jeri
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 10:00 AM

I think I likely would singit because I'm just contrary, and I DON'T see the song as 'Stepin Fetchit', any more than any kids' game. They are perky and frivolous.

My honest take on this whole thing is that the people doing the complaining think the song is dumb, and that's why they object to it being associated with African Americans. Saying it has anything to do with racism is a very long stretch. Well, other than saying it's an attempt to make African Americans look dumb because the song was created and popularized by African Americans. Suck it up. European Americans have a lot more to answer for musically, and African Americans don't get to have only good songs. The song-as-racist is a difficult search to justify why people don't like the song. It's not racist, it's just a dumb song (IMO).

I can understand why it was pulled from the show. People have to pick their battles and they just decided not to make their children pawns in this one. Bystanders such as we don't get to decide what they want to put their kids through.

Black Americans don't get to make songs they don't like disappear, they don't get to make Stepin Fetchit disappear or any other person or thing they see as negative. White Americans don't get to make misntrel songs disappear, or the KKK or George Wallace or lynchings or guys with pickup trucks and long ropes. We don't get to clean up history. Speaking as a white American, if I ever try to claim racism never existed, find one of those 'coon' songs, get right up in my face and sing it LOUD. Tell me about Stepin Fetchit who was loved and respected despite the demeanor and attitude he affected. Talk to me about Leadbelly, who had an awful lot of negatives going for him, but for some reason is remembered mainly for what he did right. Leadbelly-- who sang and may have composed this song, and who also had to choose his battles.

I DO think that being aware of potential hurts is good, but it's best if people on both sides of an issue try to understand one another. One side simply demanding only to be appeased is, in the long run, going to stand in the way of understanding.

Heard a good line on the news last night:
"So are _____ going on the offensive?"
"No, they're just going on the obnoxious."

Asking someone to send the school was a great intention. Get the school a sampling of the 'real deal'.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Ron Davies
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 10:11 AM

I'm one of those who thinks a great teaching opportunity--yes, teaching at the concert--was missed by not singing the song at the concert--and talking about the context.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 10:27 AM

I recall way back when Stan Freburg had a radio show. He had a running gag that went somehing like:

"Who was that maked man?"
"The Lone Ranger! and his faithful Swiss sidekick, Tonto--this way we don't offend anyone."

or

"I had a case of the flu"
"Hong Kong Flu?"
"No, Swiss flu. This way we don't offend anyone."

Ron, it was censorship, no matter what you may call it.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 12:03 PM

Sorry Dick, we will just have a difference of opinion on that.

Censorship is being told not to play or air something. There was a strong objection from at least one of the performers and the organizers decided not to include that song. It is the same as any artist making a set list and deciding not to include a song because they fear it will offend. Your level of sensitivity is your own.   The school discussed the song, taught it to the children, and moved on.

Perhaps it is time for all of us to realize that all battles have two sides and we aren't always in the right.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 01:34 PM

Does anyone see a relationship to the growing list of hyphenated peoples?
Each with their own little box of historical fallacies.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Terry K
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 01:45 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought the child involved had no view on the song (except the need to learn it for the concert) until her parents latched on to it with their ideas, viz;

"China Montgomery simply wants to sing. It is her first love, not including math and Barbie dolls.
But when the Anderson Middle School student showed her parents the lyrics to a song her school choir is scheduled to sing in a concert Wednesday, they were appalled".

At a later time the child was reported as sharing her parents' view - yeah right - after they had adjusted her thinking on the matter as parents have a tendency to do. In other words, it seems they taught her that she should be offended, so she was.

The school lady was right to pull the song because it otherwise would have made the children's concert into a political football at the expense of what they were actually trying to do, i.e. sing folk songs.

Now if only there was a way to let those Montgomery parents know that out in the big wide world there are things happening that they really should get "appalled" about.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 01:57 PM

"...after they had adjusted her thinking on the matter as parents have a tendency to do."

So, on one hand we hear people complain that parents aren't as involved in teaching morality to their children and let the schools do it, and on the other hand we complain when parents actually do it. Hmmm.



"Each with their own little box of historical fallacies."

And who decides who is right and who is wrong in their interpretation of history? Time marches on my friend. While another generation laughed at Stepnfechit, another generation sees the stupidity of the character and situation.

This is not a "yes" or "no" issue. I honestly think that the majority of Mudcatters (who happen to be aging and white) cannot put themselves in the shoes of this family.   I can't.   I don't think it is right to hide songs in the closet but it doesn't mean that they need to be displayed for public entertainment, especially when the participants are bothered by it.

It is obvious that this group on Mudcat will never see eye to eye on this story.   We each have different sets of values and our own personal history. All I ask is that it would be nice to try and see it from the other persons point of view. It doesn't mean you have to agree, but understanding is the only way we will accomplish any changes in this world.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST,D
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 02:36 PM

Someone wrote...It was a lot of power to place in the hands of an eleven year old, I'm thinking.

Kind of like how we allow parents to make the final decision about retention nowadays. There sure are MANY below grade-level readers in America's schools. If a parent wants their child to move on with their peers to the next grade level even though they are not ready, we allow them to. Parents have more control over that than teachers.

Had the father investigated with his daughter more on the song and its origins instead of passing off judgement and opinion, I'd have more respect for dogging the song. What did he teach his daughter? To immediately complain loudly to get your way?

Long live our folk heritage! Proud or ashamed, it is ours.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: wysiwyg
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 04:19 PM

My thoughts in the last hour or so since I looked in on this thread.... just a ramble or two:

Wow, a lot of divergent opinions here. So much energy tied up in them.... What would be the one thing about this incident upon which we might all agree? What action could we each take, in THAT direction, with one another's support? Or.... do we prefer the arguments with one another, to action to make anything better?

Do we think our arguing with one another, here, accomplishes anything?

DARE I point out that what we CAN already do, we ARE already doing, and that this is a good thing? And that we can't actually do a lot to influence a scohol district far, far away, while the one down the street might appreciate our music and our experience?

Anybody see any hope in what we do, or does this one incident negate it all?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 05:08 PM

"Had the father investigated with his daughter more on the song and its origins instead of passing off judgement and opinion, I'd have more respect for dogging the song. What did he teach his daughter? To immediately complain loudly to get your way?"

Perhaps. I think standing up and complaining about something is an important skill.   "Question Authority" was the the buzzwords of my generation and it seems to have been replaced by "Shut up and do as your are told".

Again, I point to the words of the school superintendt - "And while I believe very much that we need to continue the discussion on why this song evokes such strong reactions from people and what are the underlying causes for these reactions, I feel that this evening should be for enjoying our children's singing abilities."

I actually contacted Dr. Zumsteg and invited her on my radio show to discuss this. She declined because she felt that she is not an expert on folk music and could not add anything to her remarks. I do find it comforting to know that the song WILL be discussed and so will this incident.   I do think she made the right decision.

"Anybody see any hope in what we do, or does this one incident negate it all?"
The sky is NOT falling.   People tend to puff up their chests and jump to conclusions, but in reality we can and do make a difference.   If the only thing we do here at Mudcat is get someone to consider the alternate point of view, then we have accomplished something. I woudl not call our discussion an aruguement, and hopefully people have thicker skin than to think we are at odds with one another.   There is no right or wrong reaction to this story, but the discussion we have with each other and our children is incredibly valuable.

There are many shades of grey that we fail to see as we become set in our ways.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 05:50 PM

Someone said that you pick your battles, and I think the father picked wrong. At the end of the day, what did he accomplish? Not much.

Even though I love to play this song, I don't think that it was a very good choice in a program of music intended to represent different cultures--on that level, I can understand why a middleclass parent, perhaps even a "yuppie", would feel that this seemingly primitive, rural song, which is nominally about picking cotton, did not represent his culture--

However, the fact that the father decided to call in the newspapers and the NAACP, and play the "race" card did more damage than good. There probably was relatively little racial tension at this school before this happened, but it will be an issue there in the future, because a lot of people will resent both the disruption that was caused and the embarassment that has been cause to the school and the community.

Worst of all, middle school kids can be very cruel, and any time anyone is annoyed with the girl who is at the center of this, the words "pick a bale of cotton" can be use to taunt and torment her. They can even be used against any of the other black students, and what are really just ordinary problems between ordinary kids will be escalated to "racial problems"--


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: GUEST,Catrinka
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 07:52 PM

I learned this song from an old Lead Bellyb record and then
I heard Harry Belafonte do it with lots of drums and other
stuff. It was a joyous recording that made me, indeed, want
to "jump down and spin around". That's what I did. I sometimes
got dizzy from spinning around but oh what fun I had.
Loosen up, China. If you are so into black consciousness what
the hell are you doing playing with Barbie dolls?! Barbie is
whitey personified.
I'll take Lead Belly and Harry Belafonte ANY day.
Peace to you and your misguided papa.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Terry K
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 08:28 PM

Ron Olesko - you really think Montgomery's behaviour was "teaching morality to his children" - in a word, bollocks. I'm every inch FOR parents doing proper parenting, but to brainwash his daughter into his own misguided prejudices was not what I had in mind.

Then again, parents do the same thing with religion don't they.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 09:15 PM

Do you honestly think Montgomery is the only person that felt this way?   Ask your African-American friends what they think of the song. Ask the NAACP why they had a problem with it.

I've never said I agree with his position, but I can certainly see how it could bother him and others.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 09:22 PM

The Lomax's recorded several versions of the song in prisons, including Lead Belly's. The history of the song is very important.

However, I can see where people have an issue of the way the song is presented in modern times. Listen to Lead Belly's recording out of context and it sounds horribly dated and the imagery will remind some of the minstrel renditions that were supposed to represent African-American's. For children, I do think it would be inappropriate.

I do plan on airing Lead Belly's version on my radio show tomorrow and I will read the speech by Dr. Zumsteg.

Everyone can make up their own mind on the song.   So can Greg and and China Montgomery. I respect their opinion just as much as everyones on Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 09:36 PM

I'm posting a link to the Racial No Nos thread as I started it as a result of this one.

Come and post a comment there if you haven't already done so.


Azizi


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 10:13 PM

Digression-
Hand picking of cotton is still strong in China, particularly in Xinjiang. According to China News, some 1.8 megatons of cotton were picked last year. Many of the pickers don't live there but come for the harvest. No stigma is attached to picking.
The article is no longer available, but this brief note and photograph and still on line: Cotton Picking
China Daily lists 2005 prices at over US $2100/ton, above the international price, and a good deal for farmers. There is a shortage of labor. Article and picture: Cotton Harvest


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Nov 05 - 11:56 PM

Try again- Cotton harvest


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: mg
Date: 20 Nov 05 - 12:32 AM

There is a surplus of labor in North Korea but of course there are fears they would not return after harvest. Tragic situation. but how did China have a shortage of labor? mg


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Nov 05 - 10:22 AM

China has labor shortages in the farm areas because there are lots of better paying, less physically demanding jobs in manufacturing--


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Nov 05 - 10:23 AM

Just for my own amusement, I've been trying to put together a set list that couldn't possibly offend anyone.

It's very short.

Reminiscent of "The Book of Irish Erotic Art" or "The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush"


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Terry K
Date: 20 Nov 05 - 10:38 AM

Dick, how long would your DT be if we listened to every hyper-sensitive moaner that wanted to input?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 20 Nov 05 - 12:44 PM

NO ONE SUGGESTED PUTTING TOGETHER A LIST OF SONGS THAT COULD NOT POSSIBLY OFFEND ANYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This story has been twisted around and people are using it to grind their own ax.   The story about a specific school and a specific song had a specific resolution - one which I happen to agree with.   

I don't think anyone suggested "banning" the song or pretending that it never existed. The issue comes down to whether or not it was appropriate for these children in this situation. You may disagree, and that is fine. There was no right or wrong resolution to this story.

There are Child Ballads that deal with rape, incest, infanticide and more taboo subjects. Would you be raising a stink if one of those songs were "banned" from a middle school concert?

There have been exhibits of Nazi art in museums across the world. Often it is met with protests. Is that an appropriate response? You tell me.

You can't hide or forget the past. You can learn from it. However there are appropriate places to share art and inappropriate places.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Joybell
Date: 20 Nov 05 - 04:13 PM

A state of high indignation is a popular way of getting an adrenalin rush. Certain types of media thrive on it. It's a seductive but potentially dangerous activity. Just my opinion. Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: dianavan
Date: 20 Nov 05 - 05:21 PM

When China said, "...it wasn't a nice song to sing because it's talking about African-American people," her father should have explained to her that it was a song that helped slaves get through their work. It may have been slavery, but never-the-less, music lightened their burden. THEN, the child could have felt proud that her heritage included people that could overcome such oppression.

Its O.K. to 'talk about African-American people' or any 'other' people for that matter. Whats not O.K. is to ridicule others. This song does not ridicule anybody.

As usual, instead of being a responsible parent, the 'problem' was shifted to the school. Lets not deal with it home, lets blame somebody! Lets blame somebody for not taking into consideration our little darling's feelings. How do you discuss folk history if you are going to ignore slavery?

Once the principal was informed of the problem, she had no choice. Nobody wants to see a kid with her feeling's hurt. She is not, however, responsible for hurting the kid's feelings in the first place.

China's parents should be educating their child. If she's going to a school where she is a minority, they should be bending over backwards to educate her at home. Why didn't they take the time to explore the history of the song before making their daughter the center of attention.

I'm sure the daughter would be a lot happier if her parents would have dealt with the matter differently. She would be much stronger if her parents would have helped her to develop some coping strategies. The world is not going to adjust to her and her feelings. How will she cope in the real world where nobody really cares how she feels and her mommy and daddy aren't there to protect her?

I didn't catch her age, but if she's old enough to ask the questions, she's old enough to know the truth. Why are her parents coddling her to such a degree?

The kid is right and the principal is right. The parents are doing their child more harm than good. They are wrong.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Nov 05 - 06:15 PM

Yes, they are wrong, but one cannot retroactively educate them. Their attitudes are passed on to the next generation.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 20 Nov 05 - 07:06 PM

"The parents are doing their child more harm than good. They are wrong"

That is an opinion, not a fact.

You are not the parent or the child and you do not know the circumstances.   I would also ask, again, how many African-Americans feel comfortable singing this song in 2006?

There is much we can learn from it, and if you take the time to read the superintendent's response you will see that the students are continuing the discussion.

This 11 year old and her father are not the first African-American's who have trouble with this song. You have to look beyond your own circumstances to see this.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 21 Nov 05 - 05:45 PM

I regret to see a book-burning attitude.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: dianavan
Date: 21 Nov 05 - 08:06 PM

Ron Olesko - Of course its an opinion. My opinion is that they should take the opportunity to educate their child about slavery and the work songs that helped them get through those troubled times. Its a chance to make China feel proud. Are they trying to deny that this is a part of U.S. history? They should explain that if anyone should feel shame, it was the people who promoted slavery and grew rich from the labour of their slaves.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 09:34 AM

"I regret to see a book-burning attitude. "

I regret to see that as well. Thank goodness we did not see it in this case.


"My opinion is that they should take the opportunity to educate their child about slavery and the work songs that helped them get through those troubled times."

And I agree with your opinion. That appears to be exactly what the school did. The ARE teaching the children how wrong it was to have slavery in this country and the horror of that lifestyle. They just decided the best place to educate was not in the concert. I agree with that too.   I applaud the school for using folk songs to teach their children.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Goose Gander
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 10:15 AM

How many times must it be repeated that both blacks and whites picked cotton, and that this was not a slave-era song?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 10:36 AM

It doesn't have to be repeated because it isn't the point of the story.

A song does not have to be from a particular era to evoke a response. This song has developed an image, primarily through media, and it does evoke a response.   You don't have to agree with the reasoning, I'm not sure if I do as well. However I do respect the individuals reaction and believe that the school had the appropriate response.

The issue is still a matter of respect and situation.   The song was not "banned", the song was pulled from a concert but discussed elsewhere in the school.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Goose Gander
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 10:48 AM

But the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Leadbelly's song is the point of this story, as far as I see it. 'Images developed through media' are often misleading or false. Far from a slavery song, this was a song of self-affirmation. Why not tell that story?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 10:59 AM

It's not Lead Belly (two word's please) song! He made it popular, but the Lomax's recorded several versions during their collecting.

You may be right in everything you say about the song. Yes, images portrayed by the media and artists recordings can be misleading and false. That still doesn't hide the fact that many people are uncomfortable with singing this song for reasons other than it's history.

I played three versions of it on my radio show this week - Lead Belly's (more of a dance version), Harry Belafonte's (a very odd sounding setting if you look at it from a 2005 perspective) and the Freedom Singers (probably my favorite and one that I would classify as "self-affirming", but that is my opinion only.)    The story of "self-affirmation" has been told, and in that school. Just not in the concert.

It is not a "misunderstanding" but a legitimate response to the words and style of the song as felt by more than one African-American in 2005. For the 1000th time, no one is hiding or banning the song.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Cool Beans
Date: 22 Nov 05 - 11:07 AM

AS a resident of the Berkley School District I must clear something up about its demographics.
The school district encompasses three adjoining towns. Berkley is one of them; its ethnic makeup may be as stated in Q's posting of Nov. 18. The other two towns are:
Huntington Woods, about 50 percent Jewish and with one of the highest rates of folks with college and advanced degrees in the whole USA.
Part of Oak Park, also about 50 percent Jewish, and with more African Americans.
Although most of the Huntington Woods and Oak Park kids attend Norup Middle School, which is in Oak Park, this issue involves the whole school district.
Peace's crack about the "Horst Wessel Song" is far from the mark, and uncharacteristically ignorant.


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST,MC
Date: 02 Dec 06 - 04:53 PM

Well Mr. Gibson, you apperentlly got dropped on your head when you were a baby, because you dont realize that this is a song that brings back slavery memories, and yes there are good ones.
this girl stands up for what she beleives in, and every other idiot that thinks they know what they are talking about, should probably do their black history research, because your bumber than an elven year old girl who obviously knows more than you.


Thank you airheads!


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Goose Gander
Date: 02 Dec 06 - 09:35 PM

" . . . your bumber than an elven year old girl who obviously knows more than you."

Thank you, Guest MC, for this pearl of wisdom!


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Dec 06 - 09:54 PM

Who is Mr Gibson?


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Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: sapper82
Date: 03 Dec 06 - 11:12 AM

From: GUEST
Date: 02 Dec 06 - 09:54 PM

Who is Mr Gibson?

Son of Mrs. Gibson perhaps?


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