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African American Secular Folk Songs

14 May 05 - 12:37 AM (#1484713)
Subject: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

I believe that many people are aware of the existence [if not specific examples of] a large number of religious songs {spirituals}that were composed by unknown African Americans prior to the end of the Civil War.

However it seems to me that far fewer people are aware that during the three centuries of slavery a number of non-religious {secular} songs were also composed by anonymous African Americans.

A number of these dance songs, and children's play songs have been assimilated into the melting pot of American folk music. Usually when these songs are included in contemporary [1960s-2005)music books, they are presented without any acknowledgement of their African American origin. However, it seems to me that books published prior to the 1960s are more likely to contain some information on the origin of the songs included. Often this information includes some mention of the race of the persons or population from which the song was collected {or from which the song appears to have been best known}. I have found that the older the book, the more likely a reference will be given of a song's origin, including information about the African American origin of the song [or of that particular adaptation of the song].

Generally speaking, I have also found that most contemporary music books use an inconsistent system for categorizing antebellum African American songs. In another current Mudcat thread on the origins of songs, I provided a list of African American folk songs that demonstrated this practice. I created that list [which I will re-post in the next post on this thread] from songs that were included in a book about folk songs from the world. The songs were not listed as African American, but were categorized by state, region, or nation. Other some songs were listed as "traditional". It should be noted that the same book had a category for 'Negro spirituals'.
In addition, that music book also included a small category of African American {Negro} folk rhymes and work songs. IMO, by presenting one category for African American spirtuals and one category for secular African American songs and the EXCLUDING a large number of songs presented in that book that are generally considered to be of African American origin, that book was likely to cause readers to make an erroneous conclusion that the songs on those two lists were the only ones in that book which were of African American origin.

As I indicated in that other thread I have a number of concerns about the use of arbitrary categories for folk songs from the USA that do not mention the racial background of the song's composers.
I will also repost my comments about that in this thread.

I am creating this separate thread because it is a subject I am very concerned about. Because two posters to that other thread commented on my posts about this subject, this may also be a subject that could be of interests to others.

I am interested in knowing whether you think it is appropriate and/or important to include information that is known about the racial/ethnic origin of folk songs.

I also would like to know if others have noted inconsistencies in how folk songs are categorized in music books.

And I would also be interested in any help that could be given in listing and providing documention of American folk songs that are considered to be of African American origin or probable African American origin.

Thank you.

14 May 05 - 12:41 AM (#1484718)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Here is a repost of my first & second comments on this subject in the "Origins: do they matter?" thread:

Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 05:58 PM

Torctgyd wrote that when he was growing up he was told "by many English people that the English had no folk music of their own; it was all Irish or Scottish in origin."

When I was growing up I was told that Black people in the United States and where ever, never had ANY culture apart from "Negro" spirituals.

Currently music books still feed into that erroneous conclusion by continuing to abitrarily categorize many non-religous songs of African American composition as 'folk', 'traditional', or United States {American} folk music, while appropriately crediting a few to us {African Americans}.

As others on this thread have written, knowing the origin of songs helps the listeners to understand the context and meaning of the song.

I would also add that knowing the origin of a song may help enhance the self-concept and group concept of members of the group who composed the song...And it may also correct ethnocentric misinformation that all too often was the standard practice in the past.

Subject: RE: Origins: Do they matter
From: Azizi
Date: 13 May 05 - 06:51 PM

As a follow-up to my previous post, below is a list that I compiled last year from a book called the 'Folksong Fake Book'[sorry I didn't record the editor, publisher, publication date of that book}.

IMO, this list serves as a representative sample of folk songs that I believe are of African American origin, and which are categorized by state, or nation with no mention of their African American origin. At the same time other songs in that book are credited as being of African American composition. Most of the songs in that book that were categorized as being of African American origin were "Negro" spirituals. However, there were a few secular songs in that book that were listed as being of African American origin.

It is my contention that such inconsistent categorizing can be interpreted as meaning that the only songs that we {African Americans} only composed religious songs during the three centuries of American slavery.

IMO, it is important to correct this misconception to give credit where credit is due and to honor and celebrate the creativity of those who created these songs. In addition, iI believe that it is important to credit these songs as being of African American origin and showcase other antebellum African American songs that don't usually get included in mainstream folk music books because knowing about the full range of African American songs from those times- including protest songs-presents a FAR different picture of slave culture than that which is usually taught.

Note-I have placed the category that the editor gave for each song in parenthesis:

All The Pretty Little Horses {listed as "Southeastern American

Bile Them Cabbage Down {listed as "19th Century American"}

Cotton Eyed Joe {listed as "Folksong from Tennessee"}

Frankie and Johnny {listed as "Anonymous Blues Ballad, possible from
                   St. Louis or Kansas City"}

Freight Train {listed as "American"}

Grizzley Bear {listed as "Southern American Chain Gang Song"}

Hush Little Baby {listed as "American from the Carolinas"'}

John Henry {listed as "folk ballad from West Virginia circa 1870s"}

Michael Rowed The Boat Ashore {listed as "Traditional American"}

Midnight Special {listed as "American"}

Mister Rabbit {listed as "Southern American"}

Nine Pound Hammer {listed as "American"}

Old Aunt Kate {listed as "American Children's Song"}

Old Joe Clark {listed as "Tennessee Folksong"}

Oh Mary Don't You Weep {listed as "American Gospel Song") *

One More River {listed as "American Gospel Song"}*

Polly Wolly Doddle {listed as "Southern American"}

Railroad Bill {listed as "American"}

Run, Children, Run {listed as "Southern American"}

Shortnin' Bread {listed as "Plantation Song from the American

Take this Hammer {listed as "Work Song from the South"}

The Boll Weevil {listed as "Folksong from Texas"}

The Paw Paw Patch {listed as "Southern American Singing Game Song"}

The Ole Grey Goose {listed as "19th century American"}

* "American Gospel Song" is listed separately from the
"Negro traditional spiritual" category

14 May 05 - 12:59 AM (#1484726)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Also see other posts from other 'Catters and myself on this subject in Origins; Do They Matter?

Included among those posts is a request to provide information as to why I categorized some songs on that list as African American folk songs.

I will try to address that request as soon as I can, as cogently as I can, and as accurately as I can given the limitations of my knowledge as an 'arm chair' student of African American folk culture.

Needless to say, I welcome any help from those who may have information & documentation about this subject.

And I also am open to new knowledge that might refute my current opinion on that origin of songs that are included on this list.

14 May 05 - 09:24 AM (#1484890)
From: Azizi

I noted in the other thread that I referred to that there were several typos in this example that I had provided about a little known African American protest song that dates from plantation slavery days:

Here is that repost:

"Inconsistent categorization of African American folk songs in United States music books-and the failure to include other known African American folk songs that don't conform with the stereotypical image of resigned or happy slaves-is a pet peeve of mine.

For an example of the protest rhymes that you seldom will see in any folk music book, see what I believe is a coded message rhyme that is included in Thomas W. Talley's Negro Folk Rhymes, originally published in 1922:


Dat ole sow said to de barner:
'I'll tell you wha' let's do:
Let's go an' git dat broad-axe
And die in de pig-pen too,"
"Die in de pig-pen fightin'!
Yes, die, die in de wah!
Die in de pig-pen fightin'
Yes, die wid a bitin' jaw!"

{p. 39 Talley}


Of course, 'Jimmy Crack Corn' can also be read as an African American protest rhyme. One way to deal with something threatening is to make it safe and funny. And IMO, that was done with the JCC song. Too many people are too stuck in the happy slave motif to realize what that song is really saying."


I believe "Die in a Pig Pen fighting' is a coded call to Black people fight to defend themselves and-perhaps to actually fight in the Civil War.

14 May 05 - 09:25 AM (#1484891)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Abby Sale


No doubt you are completely right in this. To me, until a song has evolved so far as to remove nearly all elements of the original singers, origins are vital to understand a song and its setting. Without the setting and cultural orientation (and the greatest possible effort - never popssibly perfect - to understand the words, nuances, codes and references) one might as well be singing rote-memorized unfamiliar language. Of course, most entertainment-singing has no discernable meaning but I don't care about or listen to that.

OTOH, categorizing is another story. Most collectors I've read admit of the flaws in categorizing. Even so simple a distinction as separating sea chanties by type of task or chantey/forcastle or even chantey/ballad, is misleading when a song does two or three functions at different times. After all (eg) "All The Pretty Little Horses" is a 'Southeastern American Lullaby,' among those of other races, and the author wouldn't want to include it twice in two sections.

Dr Greenhaus has often railed (or commiserated) about the                               necessarily artificial and necessarily often misleading results of such categorizing - even while such makes orienting in a book easier for the reader. This, of course, is one of the main geniuses of the Digital Tradition. He intended it to be fully and nonlinearly searchable so category becomes irrelevant. But category is also still usable in the Keywords. Thus a song can have multiple categories - one song might have @religion, @Negro, @lullaby and @spiritual.   (Unfortunately, "All The Pretty Little Horses" only has @lullaby!)

14 May 05 - 09:47 AM (#1484900)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Russ


What counts as evidence that an item might be classifiable as "African American Secular folk Song"?

What counts as sufficient evidence that an item should be classified as "African American Secular folk song?"

Note that I am NOT asking you why we should use your category. I am asking you how we deteremine whether an item belongs in that category.

If you are going to do categorization, do it right.

14 May 05 - 10:17 AM (#1484907)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi

Abby and Russ, thank you for your comments.

It is my hope that I will not be alone in responding to the critical question "What counts as sufficient evidence that an item should be classified as "African American Secular folk song?"

My initial thoughts would be to examine how the record of collectors of folk songs, and what the earliest documentation about the song says about who and where the song came from.

I would also look at the structure and text of songs from the Southern USA and elsewhere in the USA to determine if they meet the common elements of African American {African} music-for instance:

Is the song made up of short often ryhming [or near rhyming] phrases or sentences?

Is the song utilize a call & response structure?

Is the song open ended?

Is improvision a part of the performance of the song?

Is the song highly percussive?

Is dance and other body movements closely associated with the performance of the song?

Does the song contain floating verses that have been associated with other established African American songs?

Does the song include vernacular phrases and words that are most closely associated with African Americans from that time period?


Again, I would very much welcome your thoughts on what guidelines should be used to categorize a song as a secular African American folk song.

14 May 05 - 10:24 AM (#1484910)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi

As context to this discussion, I offer this very interesting essay on
African retentions in Louisiana

Here is one excerpt from that article:

African cultural retention abounds in the region and is taken for granted when not appropriated for sale to the public as a variant of so-called "mainstream" culture. The banjo, for example, is commonly considered European and is a staple of Appalachian culture that is usually associated with Whites. History, forgotten or distorted, has removed this instrument from its original cultural base. Joseph Holloways' book, Africanisms in American Culture presents an argument, in an essay entitled "African Heritage of White America," which ties the instrument and its playing technique to Senegambian music. In New Orleans, the late Danny Barker brought the instrument back into prominence during the career.

There are many commonplace musical links that demonstrate elemental ties to African culture. Ululation (yodeling), improvisation, the use of call-and-response and syncopation are characteristics of African music continent-wide. The use of a 17-21 tonal scale is common to African music whereas European music utilizes a 12-tone scale. Scholars and musicians involved in research are finding African music far more complex, harmonically as well as rhythmically, than previously noted. Far from being primitive, African music is considered to be advanced by those knowledgeable of its origins. Diminished tones utilizing the minor mode, as found in today's blues, typify the diversity found within the world's oldest music tradition.

Some years ago, Dr. Hashimi Maiga (a native of Mali) played a tape and asked me to identify the player. I totally blew it, identifying the player alternately as John Lee Hooker or one of the other musicians out of the Delta Blues genre. The guitar player, rendering centuries-old Malian melodies on a contemporary instrument was Ali Farka Toure. The question that has bugged me since hearing that tape is, "Was the 'first' person to play the blues in this country playing a familiar tune from his homeland on a new instrument?"

Hashimi reminded me also that the entire region, at the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade was still known as Mali, then a remnant of a civilization that had endured for more than a millennium. This area included all of the aforementioned African nations, Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana and others. This made me mindful that the modern geographic designations are the results of the European division of Africa for the benefit of those colonial powers that wrecked the continent.

Dr. Ibrahima Seck, a native of Senegal, has long been fascinated by the cultural links that exist between his country and Louisiana and has studied these for years. In an effort to bring the information to people on both sides of the Atlantic, he created the Bouki Blues Festival, which is scheduled for January 2002 in Senegal. Music and scholarly presentations on the links are a part of the program for the festival."


This article also talks about other examples of African retention such as the processional tradition, masking, food and architecture.

14 May 05 - 11:05 AM (#1484935)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

Azizi, as you probably know, many of the songs indexed in the Spirituals permathread had multiple uses or had origins and interpretations not strictly limited to however one might choose to define "spirituals". I hope you will add your interpretations to the threads for those songs. There is also the start of a discussion in that thread about the need to catalog the secular genre related to the spirituals in time, sound, and culture of origin-- an additional index, and I would welcome your contributions to such a list.

IMO this is part of the reason people talk about songs as "African American" and by other adjectives-- I know that, for me, it's part of appreciating and attributing the cultural source and the people whose names so seldom were attached at the time of most of those songs' origins.


14 May 05 - 12:21 PM (#1484943)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi


Thanks for your reminder about the African American Spiritual Permathread that you and Q and others have done such a magnificent job on.

I can't access the hyperlink feature now. Could you or someone else please provide the link to that Permathread to make it easier for folks reading this thread to visit it?

Thank you.


I notice that I had forgotten five other characteristics of African American secular and religious music:

repetitious phrases

heavy syncopation

staggered entrance of voices, instrumentation

changes in tempo within the same song {a song may start slow and
all of a sudden becomes faster}

the song ends with a low note and not a high note


Those people who have an ethnomusicalogy background or know how to read and write music could probably have used the proper musical terms for these points..but that's the best I can do now.


Also this may be an extention of this subject, but there seems to be a preference in African American music [and other music of the African Diaspora} for 'dirty' sound {as opposed to 'pure' sound};
for example the inclusion of foot stomps, hand claps, body patting, interjections, spoken commentary, etc. The inclusion of police and/or ambulance sirens in Hip-Hop and Dancehall Reggae music is an example of what I am referring to as 'dirty' sound.

Also there is a noticable perference for gritty, gravely voices in African American vocalists {think Louis Armstrong} and also Caribbean vocalist.

There is also a blurring of the line between talking and singing.

And Black vocalists and musicians also throughout the African Diaspora are expected to add make the song or music their own
{or using Hip-Hop terms, they are supposed to add their own flava to the mix}. This is done by extending a word {or a note}, repeating phrases, adding interjections etc.

Audience participation is another feature of African Diaspora music but of course this is found in other world music too.

14 May 05 - 01:04 PM (#1484952)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

Another easy way to find any thread is to use the filter box at the top of the forum's thread list-- put in a word you know is in the thread title, such as:


Set the age box next to it back 30 days and go from there. The list of threads with that word in the title will pop up in the results.

14 May 05 - 09:17 PM (#1485060)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: dianavan

Azizi -

What a job! This must require a huge effort! I can see how you can separate the religious from the secular but once it is secular, don't you have to account for the influence of the regional immigrants? For instance, Afro-American songs from Kentucky might have a strong Irish influence or those from New Orleans might be mixed with French flavours sprinkled with a dash of hoodoo.

I can't pick apart the tunes themselves so I guess I'll leave that up to you. I applaud your effort to reclaim that which has been culturally appropriated and hope that you can give credit where credit is due.

14 May 05 - 10:24 PM (#1485093)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Perhaps the fake book you looked at, Azizi, was "The Folksong Fake Book," printed by Hal Leonard Pub., edited, I believe, by Hal Leonard. There are piles of these fake books, which are useless for origins. Azizi, I would not quote from them. (Or perhaps they should be discussed. Many performers never get beyond that state of knowledge)

The best info that we have comes from older periodicals, journals, books and song collections from before WWI, and some later ones that are backed by scholarship. The comments on origin are often qualified, deservedly so, because the origins have been muddied or lost.
I have been working through several collections for my own enlightenment the last few days. Two are on line courtesy Mehlberg and his website, landmark works by Perrow and Odum, the latter devoted entirely to secular songs. The insistance on christianization had already affected much of the music heard in spirituals, and loss of nearly all of the pre-emancipation secular music.

The music in African-American collections has been modified to fit the European system of musical notation (the words were also modified to fit European schemes of rhyme and poetry). A reading of some careful early verbal descriptions shows just how far interpretations have departed from those of century and a half ago. Presentations of spirituals, even by African-American groups, often are completely Europeanized.

I don't know how you want to organize this thread (or threads), or what content you are looking for.

The older spirituals and few secular songs in Allen, Ware and McKim-Garrison already were Europeanized in order to fit the scale imposed on them. This week I received a copy of "Slave Songs of the United States" edited by the composer and arranger, Irving Schlein. He added piano accompaniment and chords, adding 'harmony for color.' A comparison of the melodic line in his sheet music and that in the original collection by Allen shows a number of slight, subtle changes- perhaps making the songs more singable, but departing even further from the versions as first heard by Allen et al.

Ali Farka Toure- a great musician, an excellent electric guitarist, trained in sound engineering, familiar with American blues and who has performed with Americans. I am afraid that much of his music is not pure 'Mali.' Great stuff, though.

14 May 05 - 10:46 PM (#1485106)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi


I was hoping that you might know the particulars about the book I was referring to.

I accept that this book may not be a reliable source as to its categorizations of the songs included therein. Certainly one of my main criticisms of that book and others is that the system used to categorize the songs that are included in the book appears to me to be very inconsistent.

I am wondering if you and others also have noted the arbitrary way editors lists songs by genres and also without mention of race-when those racial origins are generally known.

As an example, see the list I reposted from the "Origins-do they matter?" thread.

My question to you, Q, and to others is "Would you consider these songs to have been collected from African Americans or Whites who indicated that they had heard them from African Americans {as was the case with the White informants quoted in Dorothy Scarborough's late 1920s collection 'On the Trail of Negro Folk Songs'?

14 May 05 - 11:38 PM (#1485124)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

I am also interested in considering the similarities between the structure & texts of those folk songs that are considered to be of African American origin and the differences between these songs and non-African American folk songs.

And when I use the term 'origin', I do not mean to imply that these songs were all fully and freshly created by one or more anonymous African American slave or freed person or free person.

As Scaborough demonstrated in her book, and others have also written about, African Americans were 'instrumental' in preserving a great many folk songs from Europe-and the folk process was used to create interesting variants of those songs.

However, there were also song that WERE created whole cloth. And I'm interested in finding out information about those songs to-and advocating for credit to be given where credit is due.

And since I am not a believer in art for arts sake, what drives my interest in this is my belief that a more consistent listing of American folk songs that includes acknowledgement of racial origin when known can enhance the self-esteem and group esteem of African Americans, and can also provide a more accurate picture for African Americans and non-African Americans about slave culture and Black responses to their situations.

To that end, I am also interested in [here on Mudcat and elsewhere} in heightening awareness of the existence of African American secular slave songs that do not support the sterotypical image of the complacent Black slave who was resigned to his and her fate and made no protest or took no actions against that fate {apart from the periodic eruptions of slave revolts}.

"Die in the pig pen fighting" that I posted above is one example of the type of songs I mean. However, as I mentioned before if one really examines the very familiar "Jimmy Crack Corn" song from the perspective of the Black slave who was singing it, it has a rather different meaning than just fun and games.

15 May 05 - 11:47 AM (#1485394)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

I have decided to use this thread to periodically post lyrics of the songs that I listed above as well as other folk songs that I believe should be in that list.

I intend to also provide links to online articles and excerpts from printed works that I believe directly or indirectly relate to that this topic.

See for example this quote from a website that I just found abou the song 'Stagger Lee':

"The black writer and folk tale collector Zora Neale Hurston has stated that every African-American folk tale has had a point to make. All of them have had something to teach black Americans about themselves and the world they lived in. So what was the point or meaning of the story of Stagger Lee? What did it teach? James Baldwin would probably answer these questions with one word: survival.

Baldwin thought that survival was a main ingredient which African-Americans put into their folk tales (Note 1). And the story of Stagger Lee can certainly be understood as carrying a message of survival--Stagger Lee was killed by the white man as punishment for the killing of Billy, but he triumphed in the end as he defeated the devil and turned hell into his own version of paradise. This story offered hope for survival to black men who knew that they could suffer, at the hands of whites, a fate similar to Stagger Lee's--whether it would be by execution, by lynching, or by having their lives slowly sucked out of them bit by bit in any number of ways.

And there may have been a second way that the legend of Stagger Lee dealt with survival. It may have made the point that directly challenging the white man's authority would pose a threat to the black man's survival. After all, if a man as powerful and "bad" as Stagger Lee lost his life by placing himself at odds with the white man's authority, the average black man would not stand a chance challenging the white man. Therefore, the message of the folk tale may have been that blacks would have to bide their time before they could directly challenge their white oppressors. They would have to work indirectly to improve their lot, and use their wits to survive until they could take a chance at defying the white man's discriminatory laws."
source: The AKA Blues Connection*


* I believe that 'AKA' here refers to 'Alpha Kappa Alpha,Inc.'. Alpha Kappa Alpha is the first African American Greek letter University sorority. [BTW, I'm a member of that sorority though have been inactive for decades].

For the entire article, click Essay on Stagger Lee

Needless to say, I very much welcome comments on the subject of African American secular folk songs from other 'Catters and from Guests.

15 May 05 - 11:59 AM (#1485397)
From: Azizi

A poster in the thread on 'Origins-do they matter' asked for the words to 'Nine Pound Hammer'. Here is one version of that song:   


Nine-pound hammer-
Kill John Henry-
But 't won't kill me, babe,-
'Twon't kill me!

If I live-
to see December-
I'm goin' home, love,
I'm goin' home.

I'm goin back-
To the red-clay country-
That's my home, babe,-
That's my home.

Source: Dorothy Scarborough, 'On The Trail Of Negro Folk-Songs'         {Hatboro, Pennsylvania, Folklore Assoicates, 1963; p. 220
         originally published in 1935 by Harvard University Press

Scarbough describes this as a work song and introduces the song with this comment:

"Evelyn Cary Williams, of Lynchbrug, sends a version taken down from the singing of Charles Calloway, of Bedford County, Virginia, a Negro worker on the road."
15 May 05 - 12:14 PM (#1485407)
From: Azizi

Scaborough also provides a second version of Nine Pound Hammer song [p.220-221]:


Nine-pound hammer, nine-pound hammer, nine-pound hammer,
Can't kill me, can't kill me, can't kill me
Nine-pound hammer can't kill me!
Oh, my papa and my mamma think I'm dead, think I'm dead,
Oh, my papa and my mamma think I'm dead!

Who shot Ida? who shot Ida? who shot Ida?
In de laig?
Who shot Ida? who shot Ida? who shot Ida?
In de laig?

Scarborough writes that Joesph Turner of Hollins' Virginia sent this variant to her [Scaborough sources were White people she either knew or who heard about her interest in this subject and then sent her examples for her book that they remembered or had heard.

The "Who shot Ida" verse is typical of the inclusion of topical information into already 'established' folk songs. This practice can also be found in Blues, Calypso, and other forms of folk music from the African Diaspora.

15 May 05 - 01:43 PM (#1485477)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

Ululation, call-and-response, improvisation and rough voices aren't grounds enough to decide origins I'm afraid.
They are found in practically every rural culture, nothing unique there.

15 May 05 - 03:11 PM (#1485523)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Thanks for that opinion Allen.

I grant you that these characteristics can not definitively determine if songs or music originates from a person or persons from the African Diaspora.

My point was that these are generally listed in books I've read as signature characteristics of African music [I'm not sure if ululation belongs on this list for African American music if that term means the chanting of high pitched sounds that I associate with Arabic and some South African music].

And I would hasten to say just from personal experience it is evident that all African music {including African American music} doesn't have all of these characteristics.

Note: I forgot to add the use of the falsetto voice for men that is also found in African American music {think Smokey Robinson}.

15 May 05 - 04:00 PM (#1485548)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Lynn W

Falsetto is also common in (white) Cajun singing - it was simply a way of getting the vocals heard over the noise of the dance floor.

15 May 05 - 05:16 PM (#1485603)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

The songs from Scarborough are worth posting, but I am a little worried about splitting threads, especially when previous threads are not linked.

Nine Pound Hammer- Several versions and a discography in thread 55453: Nine Pound Hammer
The Nine pound hammer is mentioned in the song, "Hammer Ring," black convict work gang, thread 48886: Hammer Ring

I don't believe that these hammer songs should be separated only on the basis of hammer weight, not mentioned in some, and a ten-pound hammer in one I have seen. There is a tie-in with "John Henry," where a nine-pound hammer is used in some versions. (Mudcat still sick- can't get to the Henry threads), and with the hammer in "Roll On, Johnnie-Buddy," and with coal-mining songs.

Digressional trivia- When was the first 9-10 pound hammer made? Was it a general purpose heavy driver that later found use on the developing railroads? I found one in the barn of a little farm (western Canada) that I once had (actually 9 1/2 lb head).

"Stagger Lee" has received attention in more than one previous thread, and versions inc. Scarborough's were posted in thread 3018: Stagger Lee

15 May 05 - 05:48 PM (#1485622)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg

Q, you're right-- it is important to use existing threads whenever possible. When we started the AA spirituals permathread, we discovered also the importance of searching and listing existing posted material. I used certain search criteria to do that backwards look, even without having specific song titles. I'm not sure what criteria if any would work on Azizi's project, because I think her point is partly that the songs were posted without the cultural attribution that would facilitate the search. But it would at least be very helpful if each time a song is posted in this thread, there is first a search to see if other variants are already posted.

It's also important (according to the FAQ as well as Joe's recent posts in the Help forum), that when a song is added in any thread, the post's subject line is changed to refelct the added song, for example:

ADD: Nine Pound Hammer

This makes all the people's hard work of posting and documenting songs worthwhile when folks come along later, searching by song title. (It's not too late to fix that if Azizi wants to ask Joe Offer to retitle the posts where she has added songs.)

Before it makes sense to start move forward with indexing secular AA material in the spirituals permathread, I'd like to hear Azizi's contribution to the just-begun discussion about that indexing, in the permathread. When I first started that thread, I had a lot of really helpful input from my Mudcat elders. I'd like to help Azizi in her present effort, but I am not sure yet how she sees her project shaping up or if she wants or would appreciate any help.

Another place to look for connections might be the ORIGINS permathread, where there is an index of many songs for which there ha sbeen an "origins" discussion. Azizi might find a lot of the songs she wants to discuss, using that thread as a starting point when she wants to see if a song is already posted. HERE is that one.


15 May 05 - 06:18 PM (#1485638)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Uncle_DaveO

Azizi, you included in your list Old Joe CLark. I can't say who woriginally wrote it, but Old Joe Clark was a real, identifiable, and white character about Civil War time and after. That doesn't necessarily preclude a black songwriter, of course.

Freight Train is demonstrably a black-authored song, but not technically a folk song. Written by Libba Cotten, I understand, who was "discovered" by Pete Seeger.

Dave Oesterreich

15 May 05 - 06:31 PM (#1485645)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Here are my responses in brackets to WYSIWYG's 15 May 05 - 05:48 PM

" would at least be very helpful if each time a song is posted in this thread, there is first a search to see if other variants are already posted"


"It's also important (according to the FAQ as well as Joe's recent posts in the Help forum), that when a song is added in any thread, the post's subject line is changed to refelct the added song, for example:

ADD: Nine Pound Hammer"

[Alright. And I will ask Joe Offer to add that to those posts that I have already written in this thread]

"Before it makes sense to start move forward with indexing secular AA material in the spirituals permathread, I'd like to hear Azizi's contribution to the just-begun discussion about that indexing, in the permathread..]"

[I have previously asked you to provide a link in this thread to that African American spiritual Permathread. I will be pleased to read the comments posted and respond to them as I expect others may want to do also].

"..I'd like to help Azizi in her present effort, but I am not sure yet how she sees her project shaping up or if she wants or would appreciate any help."

[I guess that depends on the definition of "help". LOL! But seriously though see the comments that I have made in this thread thus far:

"I am creating this separate thread because it is a subject I am very concerned about. Because two posters to that other thread commented on my posts about this subject, this may also be a subject that could be of interests to others.

I am interested in knowing whether you think it is appropriate and/or important to include information that is known about the racial/ethnic origin of folk songs.

I also would like to know if others have noted inconsistencies in how folk songs are categorized in music books.

And I would also be interested in any help that could be given in listing and providing documention of American folk songs that are considered to be of African American origin or probable African American origin.

Thank you. " 14 May 05 - 12:37 AM


"It is my hope that I will not be alone in responding to the critical question "What counts as sufficient evidence that an item should be classified as "African American Secular folk song?"...

"Again, I would very much welcome your thoughts on what guidelines should be used to categorize a song as a secular African American folk song." Date: 14 May 05 - 10:17 AM


"Needless to say, I very much welcome comments on the subject of African American secular folk songs from other 'Catters and from Guests." 15 May 05 - 11:47 AM.

However, I am a bit curious at what WYSIWYG meand by Mudcat Elders. Definition please. Thank you. And thanks also for the link to the Origins Permathead. I will check it out]

Azizi Powell

15 May 05 - 06:36 PM (#1485650)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

I caught this typo meand=means

Here is the corrected sentence:

"However, I am a bit curious at what WYSIWYG means by Mudcat Elders .

This refers to Susan's sentence "When I first started that thread, I had a lot of really helpful input from my Mudcat elders."


And thank you Uncle_DaveO -for your comments. I guess what is technically a folk song depends on what the definition of folk music is {Oh, no!! Here we go again!!}

15 May 05 - 08:11 PM (#1485701)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Thanks to Google, I was pleased to find this essay Negro Folk Expressions Spirituals & Secular Songs.

This essay is written by Sterling Brown, a very highly respected African American scholar.

Here are some excerpts from the portion of that essay that focuses upon secular African American folk songs:

"The slaves had many other moods and concerns than the religious; indeed some of these ran counter to the spirituals. Irreverent parodies of religious songs, whether coming from the black-face minstrelsy or from tough-minded cynical slaves, passed current in the quarters. Other-worldliness was mocked: "I don't want to ride no golden chariot; I don't want no golden crown; I want to stay down here and be, Just as I am without one plea." "Live a humble to the Lord" was changed to "Live a humbug." Bible stories, especially the creation, the fall of Man, and the flood, were spoofed. "Reign, Master Jesus, reign" became "Rain, Mosser, rain hard! Rain flour and lard and a big hog head, Down in my back yard." After couplets of nonsense and ribaldry, slaves sang with their fingers crossed, or hopeless in defeat: "Po' mourner, you shall be free, when de good Lord set you free."

Even without the sacrilege, many secular songs were considered "devil-tunes." Especially so were the briskly syncopated lines which, with the clapping of hands and the patting of feet, set the beat for swift, gay dancing. "Juba dis, Juba dat; Juba skin a yeller cat; Juba, Juba!" Remnants of this syncopation are today in such children's play songs...

..Unlike Stephen Foster's sweet and sad songs such as "Massa's in the Cold, Cold Ground," the folk seculars looked at slavery ironically. And where Foster saw comic nonsense, they added satiric point. Short comments flash us back to social reality: "Ole Master bought a yaller gal, He bought her from the South"; "My name's Ran, I wuks in de sand, I'd rather be a nigger dan a po' white man." Frederick Douglass remembers his fellow slaves singing "We raise de wheat, dey gib us de corn; We sift de meal, de gib us de huss; We peel de meat, dey gib us de skin; An dat' de way dey take us in." Grousing about food is common: "Milk in the dairy getting mighty old, Skippers and the mice working mighty bold. . . . A long- tailed rat an' a bowl of souse, Jes' come down from de white folk's house." With robust humor, they laughed even at the dread patrollers..

[continues with excerpts from 'Run N-----Run']


And there is much more. If you are interested in this subject,
I strongly recommend that you read this essay.

15 May 05 - 08:33 PM (#1485711)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

In his post 15 May 05 - 01:57 AM in the 'Origins: Do they matter' thread,Q gave his opinions on the racial origin of some of the songs that I listed as being of African American origin. One of those songs was the Grey Goose. Q's comment was "Grey Goose- several. But if it is the one sung by Lead Belly, it's B." {'B'='Black' origin}

One version of this song is listed in the DigiTrad here:
a href="@displaysong.cfm?SongID=6390">Gray Goose: Leadbelly

It should be noted that this is NOT the 'Go Tell Aunt Rhody" {the old grey goose is dead}song.

For a perspective on the hidden meaning of 'The Old Gray {Grey} Goose' see this excerpt from the Sterling Brown essay that is hyperlinked in my previous post:

"One of the best folk ballads, however, is in the simpler, unrhymed African leader-chorus design. This is "The Grey Goose," a ballad about a seemingly ordinary fowl who becomes a symbol of ability to take it. It is a song done with the highest spirits; the "Lord, Lord, Lord" of the responding chorus expressing amazement, flattery, and good-humored respect for the tough bird:

Well, last Monday mornin'
    Lord, Lord, Lord!
Well, last Monday mornin'
    Lord, Lord, Lord!

They went hunting for the grey goose. When shot "Boo-loom!" the grey goose was six weeks a-falling. Then it was six weeks a-finding, and once in the white house, was six weeks a-picking. Even after the great feather-picking he was six months parboiling. And then on the table, the forks couldn't stick him; the knife couldn't cut him. So they threw him in the hog-pen where he broke the sow's jawbone. Even in the sawmill, he-broke the saw's teeth out. He was indestructible. Last seen the grey goose was flying across the ocean, with a long string of goslings, all going "Quank- quink-quank." Yessir, it was one hell of a gray goose. Lord, Lord, Lord!"

15 May 05 - 09:04 PM (#1485725)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE OLD GRAY GOOSE
From: Azizi


Here is another version of The Old Gray Goose from Margaret Taylor Burroughs's "Did You Feed My Cow? Street Games, Chants, Rhymes" revised edition {Chicago,1969; Follett Publishing Company;p. 27-29}

{presented as found in that book}

The leader sings or chants the verse while the group gives response, keeping a definite rhythm. it may also be done with two groups. They may change roles and repeat. Children may be assigned roles of preacher, gray goose, and feather pickers.

Call:      It was on a Sunday morning,
Response: Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          The preacher went ahunting.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          He carried 'long his shotgun
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          When along came the gray goose.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          The gun went off booloo!
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And down came the gray goose.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          He was six weeks afalling.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          He was six weeks afalling.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          And my wife and your wife
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          They gave a feather picking.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          They were six weeks picking.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And they put him on to parboil.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          He was six weeks aboiling.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And they put him on the table.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          Well, the knife wouldn't cut him,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And the fork wouldn't stick him.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          They put him in the hogpen,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And he broke the hog's teeth out.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          They took him to the sawmill,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And the saw couldn't cut him.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          They took him to the sawmill,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And the saw couldn't cut him.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          And the last time I saw him,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          He was flying 'cross the ocean.
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!

          With a long string of goslings,
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
          And they all going quack, quack!
          Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!


My thanks to Mudcat Cafe member, Hollowfox, for the gift of this book.

15 May 05 - 09:13 PM (#1485734)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE GRAY GOOSE
From: Azizi

For comparison's sake, here is the version of 'The Gray Goose' that is presently in the DigiTrad:


Well, las' Monday mornin',
Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
Well, las' Monday mornin',
Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.

My daddy went a-huntin'.

Well, he carried along his zulu.

Well, along come a grey goose.

Well, he throwed it to his shoulder,

An' he ram his hammer' way back.

Well, he pulled on de trigger.

Well, down he come a-windin'.

He was six weeks a-fallin'.

He was six weeks a-findin'.

An' he put him on de wagon,

An'he taken him to de white house.

He was six weeks a-pickin'.

Lordy, your wife an'my wife,

Oh, dey give a feather pickin'.

An' dey put him on to parboil.

He was six months a-parboil',

An' dey put him on de table,

Now, de fork couldn' stick him,

An' de knife couldn't cut him.

An' dey throwed him in de hog-pen,

An' he broke de ol'sow's jaw-bone.

An' dey taken him to de saw-mill,

An' he broke de saw's teeth out.

An' de las' time I seed him,

Well, he's flyin' across de ocean,

Wid a long string o' goslin's,

An' dey all goin': Quank Quink-Quank,

@talltale @animal @bird
From singing of Leadbelly

15 May 05 - 10:37 PM (#1485764)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: mg

All I can provide here is saying that Carry me back to old Virginey was written by an African American or so I have been told. I am sure they (African Americans) wrote a wide variety of songs...and I am secretly convinced that they liked some of the Stephen Foster songs and sang them...can you confirm or deny? Like Old Black Joe..I can never understand why that is supposed to be offensive. It sounds respectful, very, to me, and the story I read was that he wrote it about an elderly man he knew and had promised him he would write him a song... I hate not to sing it because it was the favorite song of an almost-brother to me who died in Vietnam. mg

15 May 05 - 11:17 PM (#1485784)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Well, I was with Sterling Brown a good deal of the way until he started on "Old Dog Blue," the heart felt southern white tribute to a faithful and valiant companion.

It is arguable.
White rejected it as a black song, although he collected it from blacks (White, American Negro Folk Songs, pp. 207-208) as did Perrow, 1913. Possibly derived from a minstrel song of the 1850s, according to Randolph and White.

I doubt that its origin will be determined definitively.

See versions mentioned in thread 9707: Old Blue

15 May 05 - 11:19 PM (#1485785)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Miriam

Azizi, are you sure that those songs you list are all antebellum?

15 May 05 - 11:24 PM (#1485788)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg

Azizi, to clarify about changing a subject line-- please look at the empty box where posts are composed, then look above that to find this:

Reply to Thread   Subject:_________________________ Help

It's THAT subject line you need to change to:

ADD: The Song Title

(Just delete the subject line that shows, and enter your added song title.)

This ensures that people will see that new subject line when they are Supersearching for a song you might have posted, in their search results, so they can tell the "Lyrics Adds" from the posts where a song might have been mentioned but no lyrics added.



15 May 05 - 11:28 PM (#1485789)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg

Azizi, by "Mudcat elders" (note small e) I mean that once upon a time I was a newbie and full of great ideas, which those who had been here long before me helped me channel positively and effectively (despite my relatively hard head). It's sort of a tradition here that old hands do that for new folks, proactively, because we've all been there and done that. :~) Been new and so excited we don't see all the tools we could use, how we could work smarter and not harder? Help not make work for others? :~)

By "help" in my post above I meant that there are a number of things I can do to help, including on the tech side, but as my following comments indicate, unless I see for myself how I could help to support your goals, I am not sure what to offer. I don't want an offer to help to seem like an effort to steer you.

As far as a link to the permathread, I am happy to provide one, but I do prefer that people add their own links if they know how. At the time I saw your request, Mudcat was down such that I could not get to my personal page to look up the Traced thread and grab the URL to make a link. I saw that someone had suggested how you might go get it yourself, so I assumed you had-- I have not read all of each post in this thread since I had a rather large project to prep for this evening at church. Since then, I have asked Joe to include that link up in the top of the thread as he often does for related threads.... but now I am back from the presentation at church and I see he hasn't responded yet, so here you go:



16 May 05 - 04:23 AM (#1485867)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

I think another reason it may be hard to assign an origin to some of these is because the way of life for most people was not very differed, and the songs reflect this.

Anyway, for what it's worth, here are songs listed as Negro in the Burl Ives Song Book:

Careless Love
Lubly Fan
The Grey Goose
Poor Boy

16 May 05 - 05:33 AM (#1485892)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Mary Garvey, Stephen Foster lived in Lawrenceville, PA whihc mis now a part of Pittburgh, PA and happens to be less than five minutes from my home. While his house is renovated and has a plaque on the grounds, I'm not even sure if they have tours. And few Pittsburghers-Black or White sing ANY Stephen Foster songs now..Rightly or wrongly, they are considered to be patronizing to Black people..I have a book on Stephen Foster that talks about how he was greatly influenced by his Black nanny and later house servant who would take him to her church for services and concerts. Also that book {I'll post the title later put it's something like Doo Dah Day}, talks about Foster's friendship with other Black people including this paticular musical family.

And Martha, I'm sorry about your loss of your brother. One thing I can say if the title Old Black Joe is the origin one-maybe Stephen Foster's use of "Black' instead of "N-----" in those days was a sign of teh respect that I believe he actually had for Black peopel {given the information I vaguely remember reading in that book and elsewhere about Foster.


Miriam, you asked am I sure that those songs I listed are all antebellum. My short answer is "No". My slightly longer answer is that I'm learning about these songs right along with every one else.

Q Date: 15 May 05 - 11:17 PM
I guess most folk song origins won't be determined definitively. i just want to draw attention to the possibliltiy/probablility of African American origin for a lot of folk songs that are lumbed into the 'traditional' American melting pot.

Let the discussion continue!!

WYSIWYG 15 May 05 - 11:24 PM
Well, I'm not clear on what you have written here. I will try to figure out what you are saying here. And I did PM Joe Offer about this and got a response from him.

WYSIWYG - PM 15 May 05 - 11:28 PM
I don't see this thread as being any different from any other thread on this discussion forum. I typically like to monitor the threads I start and respond to many of the posts that others' made.
While I probably will post more comments on this thread than I usually do on other threads I start, I have been consistent in saying that I welcome comments from ANYONE and EVERYONE who wants to post here. I also welcome PMs from Mudcat members, including those anonymouse 'elders' {small 'e'} that you referred to in your post.

And Susan, I have been taught to give respect to elders who merit such respect.

As to technical assistance, thanks for your hyperlink.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank Joe Offer for listing those related threads above the list of posters.


Thanks for that listing. I appreciate that information.


HARAMBEE!! {A KiSwahili word meaning "All Pull Together!"}

Azizi Powell

16 May 05 - 11:01 AM (#1486019)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg


I have been taught to respect elders simply for being elders, and that it is my responsibility to receive what they offer, not judging their merit but remembering that their wisdom exceeds my own. This has proven especially effective at Mudcat, where I have learned the most from people I originally trusted and "respected" the least.



16 May 05 - 11:29 AM (#1486027)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

What do people make of Bert Lloyd's theory on the origins of St James Infirmary?

BTW, I really liked that Sterling Brown essay you linked to.

16 May 05 - 12:21 PM (#1486052)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Susan, with regards to your 16 May 05 - 11:01 AM post,
what I understand you to be saying sound to me too much like "my country right or wrong". Therefore, I don't agree with what you appear to be saying.

Since this conversation is tangential to this thread, I prefer not to discuss it further here and I have already PMed you.


Allen, would you share what Bert Lloyd's theory is on the origins of St James Infirmary?


16 May 05 - 12:38 PM (#1486060)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: PoppaGator

Most if not all of the songs Azizi lists in her first couple of posts are ones that I had always assumed were of African-American origin.

Of course, most of them are also songs that became widely known, widely sung, and thus adapted and "folk-processed" by the population at large (i.e., white as well as black folks), first in the South and eventually nationwide (and worldwide).

It may be a sign of insenstivity on my part, but I had never noticed the contrast between spiritual and secular songs in regard to their attribution to African American sources. It's a valuable insight that poses a pretty interesting question regarding why this anomaly may have arisen: Perhaps it's because the black churches have always preserved a fairly exclusive "just us" identity, while popular (secular) culture at large is open to everyone and allows more room for ambuguity regarding any song's actual origin ~ there are always variations that may have arisen among different social groups, regardless of the people among whom the original version of the sing arose.

16 May 05 - 01:10 PM (#1486076)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

Tracing a Ballad

Lloyd's interest in the relationship between the English and American popular music traditions found expression in another article he wrote for Keynote, his first attempt at ballad scholarship. Titled "Background to St. James' lnfirmary Blues," it was an historical analysis of a tune popular with jazz musicians in London at the time (1947a). He began by pointing out that although "St. James Infirmary" was a jazz tune it was also a song that had long been popular among American blacks. The current version, however, was almost certainly a corruption of an older folk ballad of non-negro origin. He also noted the similarity of both words and tune to an old Western song, "The Dying Cowboy," otherwise known as "The Streets of Laredo." One of the curious things about "Streets of Laredo," he remarked, was why a cowboy should request a military funeral, and this incongruity suggested that the original protagonist had been a soldier. So what light might a little historical research throw upon on these cowboy and jazz songs?

Both the Western song and the negro song, Lloyd suggested, were derived from 'an older hillbilly version collected by Cecil Sharp on the 8 th of June 1918 from Mrs. Laura V. Donald of Dewey, Virginia, called "St. James' Hospital" or "The Sailor Cut Down in His Prime,"' in which the dying anti-hero was a mariner. He then discussed other ' variants of this mountain ballad, including "One Morning in May" from Virginia and "The Bad Girl's Lament" from Nova Scotia, both of which were derived from British sources.6 Indeed the ballad had remained in oral tradition in various counties of southern England. Between- 1909 and 1915 the Journal of the Folk Song Society had printed several version I s, including one collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in Hampshire and one by Lucy Broadwood in Sussex, while Cecil Sharp had reported six variants from Somerset and elsewhere. Earlier still Frank Kidson had collected in Knaresborough a version called "The Unfortunate Lad" which was printed in the Folk Song Society's Journal in 1904. That in turn was related to a mid 19 th -century broadside ballad, "The Unfortunate Rake," in which the protagonist was a soldier in a military hospital dying from alcoholism and venereal disease. However, this broadsheet was probably a folk-song written down by the ballad-monger, and it was most likely during the 18 th century that it travelled across the Atlantic.

Although Lloyd's detective work in tracing the evolution of 'The Soldier Cut Down in His Prime" was based on textual comparison, he was also interested in what had happened to the tune. Tunes, he argued, were usually more fragile than words, and that was evident in this case. Nonetheless, although most of the airs associated with variants of this song bore little resemblance to each other, there was enough similarity between the tune of "St. James Infirmary" and that of several of Cecil Sharp's versions which used the melody of another ancient ballad, "Henry Martin, the Bold Scottish Pirate," to indicate that the original tune had also crossed the Atlantic. Lloyd's general conclusion was that the English ballad had proven remarkably durable- in its lengthy travels (1 947a: 14):

So through all the changing scenes of character, St. James Infirmary is not very different, after all, from its 18th century original ... A folk song is indeed a tough thing to kill, and though the captains of industry did their damnedest, many songs have survived and adapted themselves to new characters and new conditions...Infirmary's origin is sturdily Anglo-Irish; and in that it resembles many - perhaps even most - well known American negro songs.
The results of Lloyd's investigation had again underlined the close link between British and Afro-American folk music. He refrained from explicitly drawing the further conclusion that the moribund English folk-song tradition might be reinvigorated by a blood transfusion from its healthier American offspring, but the lesson could be easily inferred from his article.

16 May 05 - 08:36 PM (#1486299)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

The history behind "St. James, starting with "Buck's Elegy" and "The Unfortunate Rake" has been discussed exhaustively in Mudcat threads, 3918 a good place to start. North American progeny are widespread: all wrapped

I very much doubt that the many versions known in North America stemmed from the "hillbilly version" collected by Sharp, since versions of the song were widespread in North America, about soldiers, sailors, lumbermen, stockmen and cowboys, miners, gamblers, drivers, a murder victim, 'bad girls,' etc. It was played at the funeral of "Miss Flora" by the Stockman's Band in Dodge City (1880s).
(Miss Flora was a hound dog, a 'bystander' shot in a gunfight)

"Careless Love" is basically a song from the British Isles, but most of the verses now sung are floaters, many from Afro-American sources. Its popularity largely stems from sheet music pub. by Pace & Handy Music in 1921, probably written by Handy, called "Loveless Love" or "Careless LoveBlues." Some versions can scarcely be related to the antecedent(s), one of which probably is Thomas Moore's "To Sigh, Yet Feel No Pain," written about 1800.
    1st verse:
    To sigh, yet feel no pain,
    To weep, yet scarce know why;
    To sport an hour with beauty's chain,
    Then throw it idly by.
    To kneel at many a shrine,
    Yet lay the heart on none;
    To think all other charms divine,
    But those we just have won;
    This is love, careless love
    Such as kindleth hearts that rove.
From "The Blue Stocking;" appeared in the John Beach MS, 1801, Gloucester, MA.

A 19th c. songwriter (pub. in Baltimore; in Levy Sheet Music) changed the chorus to:
    This is careless, careless love,
    Such as kindleth hearts that rove.

17 May 05 - 01:57 PM (#1486692)
Subject: Lyr Add: GRIZZLY BEAR
From: GUEST,Azizi


How this for 'a given'?- Different songs or significantly different versions of songs often have the same name.

This certainly complicates any attempt to determine what race or races composed or contributed to the composition of a particular folk song.

For instance, I checked the Mudcat Search engine for the 'Grizzly Bear' and found serveral entries but not the one I was looking for.

See this version of 'Grizzly Bear' along with comments from Harold Courlander's "A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore" {New York, Marlowe & Company; second printing 1996; p. 411}

"This stirring prison camp work song heard in Texas, about enigmatic 'grizzly bear,' appears to be a tangent statement about events that are not clearly spelled out. One informant in another part of the south who had served time in a Mississippi prison, declared the song to be about a convict who escaped from a work gang and lived in the woods, from where he made forages for food and other necessities. Wild in appearance. he was nicknamed Grizzly {pronounced Grizzaly} Bear, otherwise known as Jack of Diamonds
{a term of anonymity}, so that his real name does not appear in the song. Nevetheless, some people expressed the opinion that the grizzly bear was really just a bear-a view that dsoesn't seem to withstand the internal evidence of the song text.

Each of the lines given here, sung by the leader, is repeated with minor variations by the group, which also comes in on the last twp words of the leader's lines."

Oh that grizzaly, grizzaly, grizzaly bear,
Tell me who was that grizzaly, grizzaly bear.
Oh Jack o' Diamonds was that grizzaly, grizzaly bear.
He had great long tushes like a grizzaly bear,
He made a track in the bottom like a grizzaly bear.
Well that grizzaly, grizzaly, grizzaly bear,
Tell me who was that grizzaly, grizzaly bear.
Jack o' Diamonds was that grizzaly, grizzaly bear.
He made a noise at the bottom like a grizzaly bear.
Well my mamma was scared of that grizzaly bear.
Well my papa went a-hunting that grizzaly bear.
Well my brother wasn't scared of that grizzaly bear.
Oh that grizzaly, grizzaly, grizzaly bear,
Well I'm gonna kill that grizzaly bear.
Well the grizzaly, grizzaly, grizzaly bear,
Well I looked in Louisiana for the grizzaly bear.

17 May 05 - 02:05 PM (#1486697)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi

See this information on the Grizzley Dance:

"The Grizzly bear started in San Francisco, along with the Bunny Hug and Texas Tommy and was also done on the Staten Island ferry boats in the 1900's. It has been said that dancers John Jarrott and Louise Gruenning introduced this dance as well as the Turkey Trot at Ray Jones Cafe' in Chicago, IL. around 1909. The Grizzly Bear was first introduced to Broadway audiences in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910 by Miss Fanny Brice.

-- The dance was rough and clumsy, the picture above is character of the actual Grizzly Bear, as you can see, the hold is where it gets its name. During the dance, the dancers would yell out: "Its a Bear!." The genuine Grizzly Bear step was in correct imitation of the movements of a dancing bear, moving or dancing to the side. A very heavy step to the side with a decided bending of the upper part of the body from one side to the other, a decidedly ungraceful and undignified movement when performed as a dance.

-- Most writers (teachers) of the time wanted to do away with the Grizzly Bear at society dances as it was not a very pretty or sophisticated dance. In 1910, Sophie Tucker (Last of the Red Hot Mama's), was arrested for singing the Grizzly Bear and the "Angle Worm Wiggle." On July 22, 1913, written in a dance card from the Exposition Park dancing pavilion in Conneaut Lake, PA. it was written that the Bear Dance and Turkey Trot would not be tolerated. Most dances of the day would refer to some type of animal in the name, whether it had anything to do with one or not.

-- Vernon and Irene Castle had alot to do with the demise of the Grizzly Bear, as well as the Bunny Hug, the Turkey Trot and Texas Tommy. The Bear was finally shot when the Fox Trot appeared on the scene (1914).

M.F. Ham in his book "The Modern Dance" states that the grizzly bear came from the low Chinese dives of San Francisco.

Birth Place Creation Date Creator Dance Type:
San Francisco, CA. 1909 n/a Ragtime Dance "

[sorry, the hyperlink function won't work}

17 May 05 - 02:36 PM (#1486720)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi

I mention the Grizzly Bear dance and include the information posted on, though I don't agree with that site on where the dance originated.

Y'all know which racial group I believe created these dances. {smile}

17 May 05 - 02:40 PM (#1486722)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

"The Grizzly Bear" (posted in prison adaptation above (not the one that came to my mind and based on the "Preacher and the Bear") appeared in sheet music with words by Irving Berlin and music by George Botsford, 1910, "The Dance of the Grizzly Bear," based on the San Francisco dance and made popular by Maude Raymond. Levy Sheet Music:"> Grizzly Bear

I doubt that the two are related in any way.

(All I do is argue?)

17 May 05 - 02:51 PM (#1486728)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi

Sorry about that. I meant to write "I mention the Grizzly Bear dance and include the information posted on, for the historical folkloric value though I don't agree with that site on where the dance originated."

And Guest 17 May 05 - 02:40 PM, I agree with you that there is no connection between these two songs and that the Grizzly dance dos not come from the song that I posted above.

Click here for More on the Grizzly Bear dance

Here is an excerpt from that site:

"'Grizzly Bear,'" better known as "Doing the Grizzly Bear," by Irving Berlin/George Botsford, was a ragtime song intorduced by entertainer Fannie Brice in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910. The song is often associated with Sophie Tucker who performed it in vaudeville and later recorded it for Mercury. "Grizzly Bear" was recorded for Victor by Bill Murray and the American Quartet. The song's lyrics describe one of the ragtime animal dances supposed to have originated on San Francisco's notorious Barbary Coast. These animal dances of the early 1900s were descended from African-American social dances in which the characteristic manner of various animals is imitated. The grizzly bear dance was a variation of the turkey trot, performed with a swooping, swaying walk culminating in a bear hug between partners. (Bears, incidentally, do not dispatch their prey with death hugs.) Unlike the buzzard lope, snake hip, fish tail, camel walk, bunny hug, horse trot, crab step, kangaroo dip, lame duck, and chicken scratch, the grizzly bear escaped censorship by the strict dance establishment, possibly owing to the absence of grinding steps. In 1911 the grizzly bear was offically adopted on California's state flag, and was later featured in souvenir songs and promotional material for the 1915 San Franciso World's Fair (Panama Pacific International Exposition). Perhaps Beard's image of romping bears in his late 19th century painting, The Bear Dance, suggested itself in 1907 when Scott Joplin began plotting his opera in three acts, Treemonisha. "The Frolic of the Bears" (c. 1915) in act two, wherein costumed actors mimic the bears' frolic, or party, in the Ozark forest, seems rather odd apart from the bear fad. Because bears are not found in Africa and therefore do not figure prominently in African-American folklore, one might speculate that Treemonisha's "BoogerBears" are in essence superstition's hobgoblin, dispelled by the heroine's love, wisdom, and Christian enlightenment."


For those who aren't familiar with the name, Scot Joplin was an African American.

And, just for the record, there is no method to what songs I decide to focus on in this thread. My selection of 'Grizzly Bear' was probably influenced by Bobert's current thread on bears.


Ms. Azizi

17 May 05 - 04:01 PM (#1486765)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

You know what I've really grown interested in is the shared reality of plantation life in the 1700s and how the music reflected this, because let's face it, unless you were well-off, things were not so different for black or white.

17 May 05 - 04:19 PM (#1486769)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Well, Allen, while I understand the spirit of what you are saying,
I can't agree with you.

Prior to the end of slavery in the USA, free or freed African Americans in those times who lived in Southern states or in border Northern or Midwestern states like parts of Ohio or Pennsylvania lived daily with the threat of being kidnapped and sold as slaves.
So the legal institution of chattel slavery was a significant difference that had to have contributed to a greater or lesser degree to the behavior, thoughts, and psyche of both Blacks and Whites.

Not to mention laws that regulated the behavior of Black people including free or freed African Americans. For instance, the testimony of an African American was not accepted in court against a White person. And some states didn't allow free or freed African Americans to live there at all.

But if your point was that most Southern Whites were poor and didn't own slaves, the records show that to be true.

And there was secular musical interaction between the two groups.
To site one example, African American musicians were hired out to White 'frolics' and were noted callers at those barn dances.

17 May 05 - 04:23 PM (#1486771)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: greg stephens

A considerable number of Azizi's classic "African-American" songs have a very mixed origin, surely. We would most of us, I imagine, if asked to throw songs quickly into a "black" or "white" box, unhesitingly file the great linear ballads of death "Frankie and Johnnie", "Stack o'Lee" or "St James' Infirmary" in the black category. But a more detailed analysis of their structure, melodic and also (to a lesser extent) lyrical content, would surely suggest a big percentage(indeed maybe a majority) of "white" material.` But this doesnt stop them being black folksongs. Or white songs, either. they are clearly both, depending on the version, the performers, and the audience.
    But I am not suggesting Azizi's approach is not valid, of course it is. Folk songs, by their nature, reflect the culture they come from incredibly accurately, and you can't study them without putting them in the ethnic context of their creation and and performance. And I do wish that people nowadays were as keen as the older scholars to pass on information on this kind of background of songs. I think Azizi is one hundred percent right to be a bit miffed at seeing music filched from a black cultural backround and subtly rebranded. (It happens across other cultural/racial borders as well of course, as many discussions on "Celtic or English" and similar topics show).
    People often delight in pointing out that it is impossible to determine the origins of folk music. True, but that does not imply that it is not a fit subject to study. Travelling hopefully has always been better than arriving. Keep it coming, Azizi!

17 May 05 - 04:32 PM (#1486775)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

I was talking about the 1700s, not the 1800s when things had changed considerably.

17 May 05 - 04:36 PM (#1486777)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

Guest with comment on "The Dance of the Grizzly Bear" was Q.

The Bear Flag stems from the declaration of the California Republic in 1846 at Sonoma, and was a 'natural' for the state flag. It has nothing to do with the dance or song.
"Streetswing" at times tends to go off subject and introduces material that is not pertinent to the subject.

17 May 05 - 04:40 PM (#1486781)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Thanks Greg!

I appreciate your comments.

And your sentence: "Travelling hopefully has always been better than arriving." sounds real heavy.

I gotta give you a high five for that one. I'm not sure if it is true all the time, but I've found it to be true at least some of the time.

And Greg, you know what just occurred to me? Since African Americans are a mixed race people anyway, and because in the USA there is alot of interaction across racial lines, it shouldn't be surprising that our [African American] secular and religious music-including gospels, jazz, and R&B, Hip-Hop etc- are from mutiple racial sources.

What ticks me off is the sense that in the USA and Europe if race is not mentioned, most people ASSUME that White people are/were the ones who created or invented the art work or product.

Ms. Azizi

17 May 05 - 04:46 PM (#1486784)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,CarolC

Great thread, Azizi. I have to admit to not reading all of the technical stuff about songs that have been covered so far (I blame my Attention Deficit Disorder... my eyes start to glaze over when the discussion gets technical). I was wondering if you have been tracing songs that were used as a way of communicating information about the Underground Railroad. I am sure I have read somewhere that songs and/or rhymes were used for this purpose.

17 May 05 - 05:26 PM (#1486808)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi


Usually books and online sites talk about coded {imbedded/secret} messages in African American spirituals.

For instance, the story goes that "Steal Away {to Jesus} meant that a person or persons were going to be leaving for the North or Canada. [Canada was referred to in code as 'Beulah Land', or 'the Promised Land' or 'heaven'].

And supposedly, 'cahariot'in the spirtituals 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and Good News, Chariot comin", was a coded term for the 'Underground Railroad' of assisted flight from slavery and safe houses for those fleeing slavery.

And the story is that all the train spirituals such as "Get On Board" , 'This Train", "Don't Miss That Train", Train Is Comin" etc reflected more than the interest in that new mode of transportation. According to this viewpoint, the 'Gospel Train' was a coded reference for the Underground Railroad. References to "the Conductor" meant the person who was either leading a person or group of people to freedom or one who was at a safe house helping them along the way,

Then of course there is the "Follow The Drinking Gourd" song that supposedly maps out the path to freedom.

I say 'supposedly' because it seems to me that some {or much} of the material on this 'assisted fleeing from slavery' has moved into the realm of make believe storytelling.

For example, given the fact that snitches were probably just as plentiful then as they are now, I rather doubt that the entire community would be told that an individual was planning to flee from slavery. And somewhere I read that-Harriet Tubman notwithstanding-most of those escaping from the horrors of slavery did so as individuals.

Let's get real now. I'm sure that if a slave or group of slaves fled everytime one of these songs were sung, some astute White slaveowner would put 1 and 1 together and come up with 2.

In other words, I would bet that at least some of the times these spirituals were sung for purely religious reasons.

Azizi Powell

17 May 05 - 05:59 PM (#1486835)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

Most of the time probably. Religion was not that removed from daily life, and what better way to raise your spirits.

17 May 05 - 06:14 PM (#1486850)
From: Azizi

Atually, I'm more interested in finding examples of coded messages that were used in African American secular slave songs.

I recall reading somewhere a recollection of a woman who was enslaved of how the passed along the message about a social get together after a full day of work. Some 'pass word' was used, but I can't find that passage. Yet.

However, here is an example of a coded term being used in a secular song:


Bessie Jones, Bess Lomax Hawes,"Step It Down" {University of Georgia Press, 1972, p. 208}

Now, Old Bill the Rolling Pin this morning.
Now, Old Bill the Rolling Pin this morning.
Now, Old Bill the Rolling Pin,
He's up the road and back again.
Big eyes and double chin this morning.

I geed to the mule but the mule wouldn't gee this morning.
I geed to the mule but the mule wouldn't gee this morning.
I geed to the mule but the mule wouldn't gee.
I knocked him side the head with thes singletree this morning.

Now Old Bill, etc.

I hawed the mule but the mule wouldn't haw this morning.
I hawed the mule but the mule wouldn't haw this morning.
I hawed the mule but the mule wouldn't haw,
He wouldn't do nothing but the pssum-la this morning.

Now Old Bill, etc.

Mister Frog went swimming down the lake this morning.
Mister Frog went swimming down the lake this morning.
Mister Frog went swimming down the lake.
But he got swallowed by a big black snake this morning.

Now Old Bill, etc.

[sung to the chorus melody]
Mrs. Duck went swimming down the lake this morning.
Mrs. Duck went swimming down the lake this morning.
Mrs. Duck went swimming down the lake.
But she got struck by a big black snake.
Poor thing, her neck got breaked this morning.

Note from book:
"When the mule wouldn't do nothing but the possum-la, that means he'd back around and cut up and like that-like he was dancing...*

Mrs Jones say that Old Bill was a "patterroller" and that people made this song up to make fun of him. During slavery, when Negroes were not allowed to leave their home plantation without a pass, "patterollers" were armed guards, hired to patrol the roads at night, enforcing the pass system. This particular 'patteroller' had "big eyes and a double chin", apparently reminding the singers of Mister Frog {the same one who went a-courting and who got "struck by a big black snake"}. The mule,who dances instead of working,is not as extraneous as he may seem either."


* According to Bessie Jones, the 'possum-la' was performed "almost like the 'Kneebone Bend'...The Possum-La dancer shuffles and 'cuts up' causually or perhaps skips around a circle until the world 'possum-la' when he gives a slight jump, or 'chug' to one side, landing with his knees deeply bent." (p. 127}

And to echo Bess Lomax Hawes' words, it seems to me that the big black snake that struck Mister Frog and Mrs Duck are also "not as extraneous as he may seem either".

The patteroller may be familiar to some from the song
"Run N----Run"** .

Here's another pet peeve of mine. In most music books and that I include this song, perhaps as a means of avoiding the use of that politically incorrect referent, that song is bleached of all its context and presented as a cute little children's song. IMO, this song was NEVER cute. I believe that during slavery it was sung not only to poke fun at the patrolers, but also to reinforce the lesson for African American children that if they saw a patroller they'd better run away as fast as they could.

** Since I'm one of many African Americans who can't STAND the
'N word', regardless of who uses it, Black, White, or Green, I refer to this song as "Run, Black Man, Run". At least that way I retain the context of the song.

But that's just me. To each his {or her} own.

Azizi Powell

17 May 05 - 06:23 PM (#1486856)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Sorry. I will try to remember to use the preview feature.

Here's one correction in the 3rd verse of the song:
"He wouldn't do nothing but the possum-la this morning".

And another correction, in my comments about the Run, N---,Run {or Run, Black man Run' song

"In most music books that include this song ..

And I really wouldn't mind calling the song "Run, Children, Run" without using any reference to race if those teaching the song to children, youth, and adults provided some age appropriate historical information.

17 May 05 - 07:12 PM (#1486881)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: CarolC

Thanks Azizi. I didn't know that some people were suggesting that it was just spirituals that were being used for that purpose. I was thinking more about the secular slave songs. Good point about the slave owners putting two and two together though.

17 May 05 - 07:57 PM (#1486903)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Uncle_DaveO


You said, How this for 'a given'?- Different songs or significantly different versions of songs often have the same name.

And the complementary "given": The (essentially) same song, at different times and different places, often has a different name, thus contributing to keeping folkies on their toes to keep track.

Dave Oesterreich

17 May 05 - 08:02 PM (#1486906)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Uncle_DaveO

Then of course there's the mentality that would cause the comment, "Oh, that's just them N__s hollering down in the field."

The coded nature of the songs, the somewhat-unintelligible-to-the-whites (at least some of the time on purpose), and the "Oh, that's just...."
attitude all helped the in-group meaning from being guessed.

Dave Oesterreich

17 May 05 - 09:20 PM (#1486945)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

Your comments that spirituals such as "Get on Board," "Gospel Train," etc. could in some way be related to the Underground Railroad may not be sheer fancy. Many thousands were assisted to freedom by railroads functioning as part of the passage to freedom. I named a few of the 'conductors' in thread 17760, post of 13 Apr. 05. Origins
The songs would not be coded 'direction' songs, but songs that discussed obliquely escape from slavery.

The current Thread 81241, Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, contains my reservations about that song. Drinkin' Gourd

18 May 05 - 02:31 AM (#1487047)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

Pretty complacent, no make that stupid, slave-owner that just ignores 'hollering in the field'. Remember that there was a constant fear of slaves rising.
What I suspect they sometimes did was change a certain word or phrase.
I also don't think slaves would be too happy about someone with a big mouth singing songs that were about escape while planning just that.

18 May 05 - 06:01 AM (#1487109)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi


For what its worth, I agree with your statements about the Underground Railroad and the 'Follow the Drinking Gourd' song.

I respectfully provide excerpt from one of your posts in that 'Follow the Drinking Gourd' thread for which you provided a link:

"Much is written about one or two of these [Underground Railroad]conductors, but there were others that were more important.
John Parker helped slaves to cross the Ohio River and passed them on to other helpers.
William Cretty of New York helped 3000.
Robert Purvis of Philadelphia is credited with transporting 9000.
William Still, also of Philadelphia, conducted many.
Others included David Ruggles, Josiah Henson, Harriet Tubman and many others whose names are buried in records or unknown.
Purvis, Still and Ruggles were African-American free men."


Probably because they are relatively well known, you did not mention that Josiah Henson and Harriet Tubman were African American slaves who escaped to freedom. However, for those who may not know these names, let me take this opportunity to provide the following information:

"Josiah Henson was born a slave on 15th June, 1789 in Charles County, Maryland. He was sold three times before he reached the age of eighteen. By 1830, Henson had saved up $350 to purchase his freedom. After giving his master the money he was told that the price had increased to $1,000.

Cheated of his money, Henson decided to escape with his wife and four children. After reaching Canada, Henson formed a community where he taught other ex-slaves how to be successful farmers. His autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson (1849) was read by Harriet Beecher Stowe and inspired her best-selling novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. "

Source fully quoted:


"Harriet Ross was born into slavery in 1819 or 1820, in Dorchester County, Maryland. Given the names of her two parents, both held in slavery, she was of purely African ancestry. She was raised under harsh conditions, and subjected to whippings even as a small child. At the age of 12 she was seriously injured by a blow to the head, inflicted by a white overseer for refusing to assist in tying up a man who had attempted escape.

At the age of 25, she married John Tubman, a free African American. Five years later, fearing she would be sold South, she made her escape.

Her Escape to Freedom in Canada
Tubman was given a piece of paper by a white neighbor with two names, and told how to find the first house on her path to freedom. At the first house she was put into a wagon, covered with a sack, and driven to her next destination. Following the route to Pennsylvania, she initially settled in Philadelphia, where she met William Still, the Philadelphia Stationmaster on the Underground Railroad. With the assistance of Still, and other members of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society, she learned about the workings of the UGRR.

In 1851 she began relocating members of her family to St. Catharines, (Ontario) Canada West. North Street in St. Catharines remained her base of operations until 1857. While there she worked at various activities to save to finance her activities as a Conductor on the UGRR, and attended the Salem Chapel BME Church on Geneva Street.

Her Role in the Underground Railroad
After freeing herself from slavery, Harriet Tubman returned to Maryland to rescue other members of her family. In all she is believed to have conducted approximately 300 persons to freedom in the North. The tales of her exploits reveal her highly spiritual nature, as well as a grim determination to protect her charges and those who aided them. She always expressed confidence that God would aid her efforts, and threatened to shoot any of her charges who thought to turn back."


Here is more on Harriet Tubman whose nickname was 'Moses' because of her work in leading African American slaves to freedom.

18 May 05 - 06:09 AM (#1487112)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi


also FWIW, I agree with your comments on 18 May 05 - 02:31 AM.

I'm not sure if there is an old African proverb that says this, but here's a new African proverb that I just thought of that was inspired by your post:

"Big mouths can cause big trouble".

And when it came to slavery, that ain't no joke.

Severe whippings, mutilation, and being 'sold down the river' to the harshest form of slavery in the deep Southern states were the penalties for being caught trying to escape slavery.

Of course, even today "big mouths can cause big trouble".

Maybe it's just as well that this is a text only discussion forum.


Azizi Powell

18 May 05 - 02:14 PM (#1487385)
Subject: Lyr Add: UNCLE JESSE
From: Azizi

Bessie Jones & Bess Lomax Hawes: "Step It Down" {pp 112-113}.

Lead Voice/and or                  
Group Voice
Now, here comes Uncle Jesse         
Coming through the field            
With his horse and buggy               
And I know just how he feels         
{the next verse may be added         
now or substituted for the            
first verse}                        

Here comes Uncle Jessie,
He's looking very sad.
He's lost his cotton and corn
and everything he had.

Step, Uncle Jessie, step, step.      
Step, Uncle Jessie, step, step.      
Walk, Uncle Jessie, walk, walk.
Walk, Uncle Jessie, walk.               

Now if you want a sweetheart         
I'll tell you what to do               
Just take some salt and pepper
And sprinkle it in your shoe.         

Step, Uncle Jessie, step, step. etc.

Now if you want Uncle Jesse            
To do what you want him to do.         
You take some garlic and onion
and put it in his shoe.               
Step, Uncle Jessie, step, step.      
Step, Uncle Jessie, step, step.         
Walk, Uncle Jessie, walk, walk.      
Walk, Uncle Jessie, walk.               


Notes from book:
"I tell you what this means, it mean a boss man coming across the field. He sometimes feeling good, and sometimes he's not..."

"Uncle Jesse" seems to be one of the oldest of the Islanders' plays [dramatic games]: one evidence of its age is the mention of love and power charms in the form of salt, garlic, and onion. The formal dancing by the central partners puts it almost in the category of dance rahter than rign play: in action, actually, it feels like a cross between the two."

18 May 05 - 02:37 PM (#1487405)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

Azizi, PLEASE follow the instructions given upthread on changing the SUBJECT LINE when you add a song. It's the boxed text space above the post-compose box-- just like changing the subject line of a PM???

18 May 05 - 03:05 PM (#1487432)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

"Uncle Jesse" is sometimes confused with another very old African American folk song called "Ole Jesse". In her 1925 book "On The Trail Of Negro Folk Songs" (pp 71-72} Dorothy Scarborough includes this chorus and verse from "Ole Jesse" that she says comes from Alabama:

Old Jesse was a gemman {gentelman}
Among de olden times.

"N--- never went to free school,
Nor any odder college.
An' all de white folks wonder whar
Dat N--- got his knowledge.
He chawed {chewed} up all de Bible.
An' den spat out de Scripter,
An' when he 'gin {begin} to arger {argue} strong,
He were a snortin' ripter!


It's my opinion that the "never went to free school" portion of this rhyme lives on as a floating verse in several African American children's rhymes {that were still being performed in the 1970s}, though I haven't seen any of them performed in my area {Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania} recently.

Here is one relatively common rhyme that features {or featured} this verse:

Soloist: Aunt Jenny died.                .
Group:   How did she die?               
Soloist: She died like this.
Group:   She died like this.

Soloist: She died like that.
Group:   She died like that.

[Soloist and group repeat the same sequence with other relatives and
end with these words]:

Soloist: My momma livin'.
Group:    Where she livin'.
and group: Well she lives in a place called Tennessee.
          jump up Tenna Tennessee
          jump back Tena Tennesse
          jump in Tena Tenness
          jump out Tena Tennessee
          Well I've never been to college
          I never been to school.
          But when it comes to boogie.
          I can boogie like a fool.
          You go in, out, side to side.
          You go in, out, side to side.

         (Repeat with new soloist}

The accompanying actions for Aunt Jenny died:
First line: the soloist makes a funny pose.
Second line: the other members of the group try to exactly
imitate the soloist's pose. This continues until the 'Never went to college' verse. The 'Never went to college' verse has a faster more syncopated tempo. The group chants this verse together as they peform the indicated motions. The group dances on the word 'boogie'. The group usually chooses the same currently popular dance, but each girl performs it in her own way {each puts their own flava to the mix}.

And what a delight this is to see!

Azizi Powell

19 May 05 - 08:28 AM (#1488011)
From: Azizi


Thomas W. Talley, "Negro Folk Rhymes" {Port Washington, N.Y, Kennikat Press, 1968; p. 215; originally published by The macmillan Co., 1922}

I very much dislike the "N---" referent for African Americans.
I rarely write this word out and usually use substitute another referent for it.

However, there are some old folks songs/rhymes in which "N___" is used to rhyme with another word.

Here's one example that illustrate the rhyming use of that word. This example also adds to the discussion we've been having about what might happen if individuals shared their plans to flee slavery with others.


Ole Aunt Dinah, she's jes lak me.
She wuk so hard dat she waht to be free.
But, you know, Aunt Dinah's gittin' sorta ole;
An' she's feared to go to Canada, caze it's so col'.

Dar wus ole Uncle Jack, he want to git free.
He find de way Norf by de moss on de tree.
He cross dat river a-floatin' in a tub.
Dem Patterollers give 'im a mighty close rub.

Dar is ole Uncle Billy, he's a mighty good N----.
He tote all de news to Mosser a little biffer.
When you tells Uncle Billy, you wants free fer a fac'
De nex' day de hide drap off'n yo back.


Notes from the book:

"...The Negroes repeating this rhyme did not always give the names Jack, Dinah, and Billy, as we here record them, but at their pleasure put in the individual name of the Negro in their surroundings whom the stanza repeated might represent. Thus this little rhyme was the scientific dividing, on the part of the negroes themselves, of the memebers if their race into three general classes with repect to the matter of Freedom."


Through asterisks and crosses, Talley also provides notes that the 'river' mentioned in the second verse of this rhyme was a reference for "The Ohio River" and "Patterollers" were "WHite Guards who caught and kept slaves at the masters' home".

19 May 05 - 08:35 AM (#1488016)
From: Azizi


Thomas W, Talley: "Negro Folk Rhymes", {Kennikat Press edition;p. 207}

Probably the most widely known example of the word "N----" being used in an African American secular folk rhyme is this one that also provides a perspective of African Americans view of the unfairness of life:


Naught's a naught,
Five's a figger.
All fer de white man,
None for the N-----.

Ten's a ten,
But it's mighty funny;
When you cain't count good,
You hain't got no money.

19 May 05 - 08:54 AM (#1488034)
Subject: Lyr Add: OLD MAN KNOW-ALL
From: Azizi


Thomas W. Talley: "Negro Folk Rhymes", {Kennikat Edition, p. 211-212}

[For a change of pace, here's an example that demonstrates how way back when in slavery times rhymes were used as a form of
re-direction and social control. If someone didn't want to be told off, with his [or her] name spread in the street {or on the farm or on the plantation] he'd have to change up his contrary ways. Otherwise, in accordance with the ancient African tradition that was brought to these shores by way of folk memories, he'd likely be the subject of what we'd call now a 'rip' or a 'dis' or a 'cap' or any number of other regional American terms that mean that he would be royally and creatively publicly insulted].


Ole man Know-All, he come 'round
Wid his nose in de air, turned 'way frum de ground.
His ole wooly head hain't been combed fer a week:
It says: "Keep still, while Know-All speak".

Ole am Know-All's tongue, it run;
He jes know'd ev'rything under the sun.
When you knowed one thing, he knowed mo'.
He 'us sharp 'nough to stick an' green
'nough to grow.

Ole man Know-All died las' week.
He got drowned in de middle o' de creek.
De bridge wus dar, an' dar to stay.
But he knowed too much to go dat way.

20 May 05 - 07:16 AM (#1489036)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

I want to share information about a website that I just found out about. An E-text of 'Mules and Men' by Zora Neale Hurston HERE !

This high quality E-text and related files was created by Laura Grand Jean for the Amerian Studies Program at The Univeristy of Virginia {2001}. Thank you! Much Props!! Big Up to Laura Grand Jean and all those who worked on this project !!!

For those unamiliar with African American folklorist, anthropologist, and writer Zora Neal Hurston and her now classic book, "Mules and Men" here's an excerpt from the introduction to that website:

"There has been no greater tragedy in the construction of the American literary canon than the twenty year banishment of Zora Neale Hurston to the "Dustbin of History." In a career that spanned three decades Hurston published four novels, two collections of folklore, an autobiography, and no fewer than forty articles and essays on topics ranging from "How it feels to be Colored Me" to "Crazy for this Democracy." ....

In her hometown of Eatonville [Florida], Hurston was brought up in a culture in which lying, i.e. folk tale telling, was an artform. Hurston celebrated this culture of lying when she published a collection of "them big ole lies" told "on the store porch" by the working class African Americans of her hometown (Mules and Men ). …Mules and Men …demonstrate how Zora Neale Hurston used "lies" in order to redeem and recover the voice of working class African Americans.

…more than provide an optimistic account of the lives of working class southern blacks, Mules and Men argues for the re-evaluation of the black folk aesthetic on its own terms. In an age of African American literature when black artists were encouraged to "put their best foot forward" in the form of acceptable, middle class characters Hurston squarely defined that best foot as belonging to the lower classes of blacks from which came the blues, jazz, folktales and folk songs. Mules and Men testifies to Hurston's belief that "folk were creating an art that didn't need the sanction of art to affirm its beauty"(Hemenway 54)."


This site also provides texts for Folksongs In Hurston's 'Mules To Men'

A glossary of Hoodoo phrases is also included and more!!

I'm VERY impressed with that website!


20 May 05 - 07:27 AM (#1489043)
Subject: Lyr Add: MULE ON DE MOUNT
From: Azizi

The 8 folksongs included in 'Mules and Men" and presented on the Zora Neale Hurston website include recordings from the Library of Congress, sheet music, and lyrics.

Here is one example:

"Mule On De Mount
NOTE: The most widely distributed and best known of all Negro work songs. Since folk songs grow by incremental repetition the diversified subject matter that it accumulates as it ages is one of the evidences of its distribution and usage. This has everything in folklife in it. Several stories to say nothing of just lyric matter. It is something like the Odyssey or the Iliad.

Cap'n got a mule, mule on the Mount called Jerry
Cap'n got a mule, mule on the Mount called Jerry
I can ride, Lawd, Lawd, I can ride.
(He won't come down, Lawd; Lawd, he won't come down, in another version.)

I don't want no cold cornbread and molasses,
I don't want no cold cornbread and molasses,
Gimme beans, Lawd, Lawd, gimme beans.

I don't want no coal-black woman for my regular,
I don't want no coal-black woman for my regular,
She's too low-down, Lawd, Lawd, she's too low-down.

I got a woman, she's got money 'cumulated,
I got a woman, she's got money 'cumulated,
In de bank, Lawd, Lawd, in de bank.

I got a woman she's pretty but she's too bulldozing,
I got a woman she's pretty but she's too bulldozing,
She won't live long, Lawd, Lawd, she won't live long.

Every payday, payday I gits a letter,
Every payday, payday I gits a letter,
Son come home, Lawd, Lawd, son come home.

If I can just make June, July and August,
If I can just make June, July and August,
I'm going home, Lawd, Lawd, I'm going home.

Don't you hear them, coo-coo birds keep a'hollering,
Don't you hear them, coo-coo birds keep a'hollering,
It's sign of rain, Lawd, Lawd, it's sign of rain.

I got a rainbow wrapped and tied around my shoulder,
I got a rainbow wrapped and tied around my shoulder,
It ain't goin' rain, Lawd, Lawd, it ain't goin' rain. "


The other folk songs presented are:
Let the Deal Go Down

East Coast Blues

Going to See My Long Haired Babe

John Henry

Can't You Line It

There Stands A Blue Bird

Cold Rainy Day

20 May 05 - 08:46 AM (#1489071)
Subject: Lyr Add: GO TO ELLA WALL
From: Azizi

I'm somewhat surprised that the song fragment 'Go To Ella Wall' is not included in that list of songs included in "Mule and Men'.
In that book, Zora Neal Hurston provides an account of a jook type gathering that she attended along with Big Sweet, Ella Walls' rival. When Ella Wall enters the room, the men sing a praise song to her. According to Hurston, at that time, "Go To Ella Wall" was sung in every "jook" and "job" in South Florida. [p. 192 according to my notes; Sorry. I can't find the book that I have right now; so I can't cite the publisher. However, I assume that this fragment is included in the online version]


"Go to Ella Wall
Oh, go to Ella Wall.
If you want good boody
Oh, go to Ella Wall.

Oh, she's long and tall.
Oh, she's long and tall.
And she rocks her rider
From uh wall to wall.

Oh go to Ella Wall
Take yo' trunk and all-


[At that point Ella Wall interrupts the singing and says]:
"Tell'em about me! Ella Wall snapped her fingers and revolved her hips with her hands.

"Ah'm raggedy, but right. Patchy but right, stringy, but I will hang on. "

[Then Hurston writes]:
"Look at her putting on her brag, said Big Sweet. Loud-talking de place." *


* I believe this sentence means that Ella is loud talking" {boasting about herself in a loud voice}. Of course, Big Sweet says this instigating remark in a voice loud enough for Ella Wall and others to hear.

And that's when the 'fun' REALLY begins.

02 Jun 05 - 08:53 PM (#1498730)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Banjo Rick

To Azizi Powell,
Keep up the work, As a African Amer. banjo player, I always tell other AA's that the banjos origin is right here with us. Not only with us but right here were we live.(Norfolk,Va). Lately I have been searching for thoses secular songs from back in the day. I have always felt that they were out there.
I also love the fact that other people are carfully looking at your work. What ever is discovered must be tested by your peere.
I'm still reading the thread. I'm kind of new to this tjread stuff,so hang in there with me.
Keep up the work

02 Jun 05 - 11:10 PM (#1498841)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg

Banjo Rick, did you happen to see the Woodsongs internet broadcast on banjo origins (and historic styles) recently? Audio and video, archived HERE (Show #350).

Welcome to Mudcat! Membership is free, and has many benefits.


03 Jun 05 - 12:30 AM (#1498873)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

GUEST,Banjo Rick:

Your voice is needed here.

I have been unable to figure out why there are no other regular posters on Mudcat besides me who acknowledge any African American descent.

I visited Mudcat 10 months ago. A member of this community publicly responded to my initial post and encourgaed me to join.

I extend that same encouragement to you.

Mudcat has a rich resource of information on African American music including blues, spirituals, secular slave songs, children's rhymes and more. It also has a large body of archived information and songs on other folk cultures and music.

I love sharing information about my culture and learning about other people's culture. I have enjoyed the witty give and take exchange of posting to both the music threads and the BS threads. {I'm sure you can guess what BS means but it is often a misnomer since so many of those threads are about serious topics}.

Mudcat membership is free. All you have to do is click on the word "Membership" to the far right above the thread name and follow the easy instructions.

So Banjo Rick, I hope that you join this online community.

If not, I hope that you post regularly.

And by the way, because you are African American, I don't expect that we would agree on anything or everything.

That is not the point.

We need more diversity here. Your joining would add to that.

I'm hoping to see you around the neighborhood.



03 Jun 05 - 10:56 PM (#1499877)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

"No regular posters ...acknowledge any African-American descent.."
This brought back memories of a professor of mine in physical anthropology at the University of Texas years ago, when the first African-American was applying to the University Law School. The school was fighting this attempt to break the color barrier at the University.
The professor gave one of his lectures on comparative forensics- an African group that day- then slowly looked around the room, letting his eyes rest on each of us in turn. He turned back to the board, nodding his head and said "yes" before going on with his presentation. A little nervous laughter.

The law applicant succeeded in the Supreme Court in 1950, but his lecturers met him solo, in the oldest building on campus, and he made no visible appearance on the rest of the campus. In other words, segregation continued. The pressure was too much and he failed.
His name was Heman Sweat. I have often wondered what happened to him. Google tells me that the National Bar Assn. gives an award in his name each year, but I have found nothing about his life post his experence at the University.

04 Jun 05 - 11:20 AM (#1500108)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Further digression:

Thanks for sharing that story, Q.

I was interested in the fact that the African American male who attempted to integrate the university was named "Heman".

There is some folk cultural significance to that name. "Heman" might be an old family name given during or after African American slavery to 'force' others to call the sons "man".

Some African American males are stil given the personal name "Man." However much more frequently nowadays "Man" and "Honeyman" are used asnickname for African American boys. BTW, "Honeyman" has no sexual connotation.

I'm not sure if other races also have this custom.


My daughter is a 2nd grade teacher is a school that is 99.9 African American. One of the boys in her class this year is named "Mister". The boy's mother told her that this was an old family name that was given so White people would be forced to called the male "Mister"
I read somewhere that "Mr. T" {the actor best know for the 1983 TV series "The A Team"} was given his name for that same reason.
{In the bad old days in the Southern part of the United States, Black men were never given the title "Mister" as in Mr Johnson. Instead "Uncle" was used, especially for older Black men, as in those famous Black men "Uncle Tom", "Uncle Remus, and "Uncle Ben".
In the same way "Auntie" or Aunt ____" was used in place of Mrs}.


On the other hand "Heman" could just be a variant form of the Germanic name "Herman" which means "warrior" or Latin "Herminius" which means "High Ranking male".

04 Jun 05 - 01:51 PM (#1500193)
Subject: Lyr Add: VINIE
From: Azizi

Back on task:

There are a lot of contemporary children's rhymes that use the floating verse "I love coffee, I love tea" {or "I like coffee I like tea."} These rhymes used to be chanted for jump rope, but I've usually I see them done as handclap rhymes.

Here is an old African American folk rhyme that includes this verse
This rhyme also makes reference to 'greens', the topic of another current Mudcat thread {"Hominy Grits and Greens"}:

Thomas W. Talley, "Negro Folk Rhymes", 1922; p 130

I loves coffee, an' I loves tea.
I axes you, Vinie, does you love me?

My day's study's Vinie, an' my midnight dreams,
My apples, my peaches, my tunnups, an' greens.

Oh I wants dat good 'possum, an' I wants to be free;
But I don't need no sugar, if Vinie loves me.

De river is wide, an' I cain't well step it.
I loves you, dear Vinie; an' you known I cain't
help it.

Dat sugar is sweet, an' dat butter is greasy;
But I loves you, sweet Vinie, on't be oneasy.

Some loves ten, an' some loves twenty,
But I loves you, Vinie, an' dat is a plenty.

Oh silver, it shine, an' lakwise do tin.
De way I loves Vinie, it mus' be a sin.

Well, de cedar is greeen, an' so is de pine.
God bless you, Vinie! I wish you' us mine.


I like this rhyme {which Talley describes as a dance song} because it documents that Black men and Black women dared to love each other in spite of the ravages and uncertainties of slavery which could separate loved ones from each other at a moment's notice.

The references to food in this {and many other African American secular slave songs} should be read in the context of the times-food was very much on the minds of enslaved people as the food supplies that they received were very much insufficient. Sugar and butter, for instance, were seldom made available to enslaved African Americans and therefore were very much desired. It was therefore a big deal for the man reciting these words to say he would give up sugar for love of Vinie.

I hope he was successful and blessed in his courtship and life with the woman he loved.


04 Jun 05 - 02:00 PM (#1500196)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

Heman is an alteration of the name Hemann or Hemmann, which is Germanic. The name is not uncommon. Heman as such appears on 310 immigration records (which, of course, are incomplete; there probably were more before a system was set up to handle immigrants).

Your name applications 'uncle,' etc. apply to the large area where the white population was Protestant-dominated. A smaller area, parts of Mississippi, most of Louisiana, and southeast Texas had large Catholic populations, the white Creole population with many French, but some Spanish, entrepreneurs and land holders. Slaves would often be referred to by a Christian saint's name, e. g. Aurore and Marie, but use of Tutu and similar familiar names were used to close family of elderly servants, as they are in many areas of the world. Greater tolerance of African customs and habits, as long as the slaves paid lip service to Christianity, meant that these customs lasted longer in Creole areas than they did in more protestant areas, where survivals were not tolerated.

The development of a mixed Creole population, ranging from slave to freeman, with its subclasses, also had a strong effect on racial interaction, which is difficult to understand today.
(Don't ask me to define the meaning of Creole in Louisiana, it means different things to different subgroups. I have used it in two senses here).
A few of the songs and dances of the slave population in Creole areas were preserved by Lafcadio Hearn, Henry Krebiel and George Cable, who knew and corresponded with each other. I will post a few of these secular songs later today.

04 Jun 05 - 02:02 PM (#1500198)
From: GUEST,Azizi

And on that same theme, here's another rhyme from Talley's
"Negro Folk Rhyme", p. 131


I see'd her in de Springtime,
I see'd her in de Fall,
I see'd her in de Cotton patch,
A cameing from de Ball.

She hug me an' she kiss me,
She wrung my han' an' cried.
She said I wus de sweetes' thing
Dat ever lived or died.

She hug me an' she kiss me.
Oh Heaben! De touch o' her han'!
She said I was de puttiest thing
In de shape o' mortal man.

I told her dat I love her,
Dat my love was bed-cord strong;
Den I axed her w'en she'd have me,
An' she jes say "Go long!"

04 Jun 05 - 02:24 PM (#1500205)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi


I look forward to your postings of examples of non-religious African American folk songs from the slave population in Creole areas.


You wrote that "Heman is an alteration of the name Hemann or Hemmann, which is Germanic. The name is not uncommon. Heman as such appears on 310 immigration records (which, of course, are incomplete; there probably were more before a system was set up to handle immigrants)."

You will note that I offered that possibility for Heman Sweat's name.

However, I stand by my position that this name or names like it were given to African Americans for the reason I provided.

I have a book on African American slavery entitled "Speak Loud With Thunder Tones" [which unfortunately I can't find at this moment}.
That book includes an account of a male head of an African American family who, after the end of slavery, chose the surname "Beman" because he wanted to make sure that White folks didn't call him or his sons 'boy'.

This is part of our culture as are the 'basket' names you referred to in your post {African Americans using African or other personal names and nicknames among themselves and the names given them by the massa and missus only when they had to}.

And there is also the African American tradition of using status names as personal names like "Prince", "King", "Princetta", "Star", "Queen", "Major" etc.

HERE is a website on selected names used by African Americans that I started a couple of years ago [and have sorely neglected; For instanceI haven't added anything to the data base for quite some time...]

But it might be of interest to Mudcat readers....

Azizi Powell

04 Jun 05 - 02:37 PM (#1500214)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

Just how uncertain was daily life for most of them? Life tends to settle into patterns.
Food was on everyone's mind, black, white, whatever.

04 Jun 05 - 02:47 PM (#1500222)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

I don't question your interpretation of the use of 'Heman' as an African-American name. I was swelling out its history as a proper name, since using a surname as a first name once was not uncommon in the South.
Your project on names is interesting. As a student, for awhile I had a part-time job with the Texas State government checking census, poll tax (fee $5.00- I still have my receipt), and other records. I remember some of the names, one of which was Lemon Meringue, but I don't remember the racial designation. Those records, if still in existence, would be a gold mine of names, since race was indicated.

04 Jun 05 - 06:18 PM (#1500276)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi


See this excerpt from the first website that I pulled up on African American slave culture:

"Some advantages to rural slave life

For slaves working on farms, the work was a little less tedious than tobacco cultivation, but no less demanding. The variety of food crops and livestock usually kept slaves busy throughout the year. Despite the difficult labor, there were some minor advantages to working on a plantation or farm compared to working in an urban setting or household. Generally, slaves on plantations lived in complete family units, their work dictated by the rising and setting of the sun, and they generally had Sundays off. The disadvantages, however, were stark. Plantation slaves were more likely to be sold or transferred than those in a domestic setting. They were also subject to brutal and severe punishments, because they were regarded as less valuable than household or urban slaves.

Few men on domestic sites

Urban and household slaves generally did not live in complete family units. Most domestic environments used female labor; therefore there were few men, if any, on domestic sites. Most male slaves in an urban setting were coachmen, waiting men, or gardeners. Others were tradesmen who worked in shops or were hired out. In general, urban slaves did not have the amount of privacy that field slaves had. They lived in loft areas over the kitchens, laundries, and stables. They often worked seven days a week, even though Sunday's chores were reduced. Their work days were not ruled by the sun; instead, they were set by tasks. But there were advantages to working in town.

Urban and domestic slaves usually dressed better, ate better food, and had greater opportunity to move about in relative freedom. They also were go-betweens for field slaves and the owners. They were privy to a great deal of information discussed in the "big house." They knew everything from the master's mood to the latest political events. The marketplace became the communal center, the place for "networking." At the marketplace, slaves would exchange news and discuss the well-being of friends and loved ones. They often aided runaways, and they kept a keen ear to those political events that might have had an impact on their lives. Regardless of a slave's occupation, there was considerable fear and angst caused by an environment of constant uncertainty and threats of violence and abuse."


Click HERE for that entire article.


IMO, though food was undoubtably on the minds of poor White people during slavery times, White people, regardless of their financial status, were FREE from all sorts of fears and degradations that free born, freed, and enslaved Black people had-including the fact that they COULD BE sold apart from their family unit, or captured and said to be a slave even if they had been born free or somehow bought their freedom.

And there were a hosts of other 'benefits' to being born White in the United States during that time, which any student of history can discover with a little time spent studying those three centuries plus of United States slavery.

04 Jun 05 - 06:36 PM (#1500282)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

I never said there weren't, I just think that it tends to be overemphasized. Certainly during the 17th and 18th centuries the differeces weren't that great, but I wasn't talking about that.

04 Jun 05 - 08:47 PM (#1500322)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

Lafcadio Hearn, in *letters to Krehbiel, spoke of the difficulty of obtaining the songs of the 'coloured' in Louisiana.
*E. Bisland, ed., 1906, "The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn," Vol. 1, p. 232, (written 1881), Houghton Mifflin Co.
"Nearly all of the Creoles here- white- know English, French and Spanish ... in addition to the patois employed only in speaking to children or servants. When a child becomes about ten years old, it is usually forbidden to speak Creole under any other circumstances. The French coloured population are ashamed to speak their patois before whites. They will address you in French ... and sing French songs; but there must be extraordinary inducements to make them sing or talk in Creole."
Of the three collectors, only Henry Krehbiel had much musical ability, George Cable was probably best at translation, and Hearn was a superb observer and inquirer. Their interaction on a Criole Candjo perhaps is one of the more successful of their efforts. Mudcat is balky now; I will wait until it gets better to render their versions.

04 Jun 05 - 08:57 PM (#1500324)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi


You wrote:
".. Certainly during the 17th and 18th centuries the differeces weren't that great."

Assuming that your comment refers to the differences between the living conditions of poor White Southerns and poor Black Southerns during the 17th and 18th centuries, I would respectfully strongly disagree with you.   


How's this for synchronicity?

Earlier in this thread I mentioned the book "Speak Out In Thunder Tones" in reference to a story about a newly emancipated African American who chose the name "Beman" as his family name. I also indicated that I knew I had that book-somewhere-but where it was I didn't know.

Shortly after writing that post, I went to the home of my best friend who had passed on last November. Her daughter and son had requested that others help them pack up their mother's books, artwork, artifacts, and clothing.

At one point I happened to go upstairs to ask the daughter a question, and there, in the midst of one pile of books that was getting ready to be placed in a box, was the very book that I had mentioned in this thread.

That book's full title and editor is:
"Speak Out In Thunder Tone:Letter & Other Writings By Black Notherners" {Dorothy Sterling, editor; Doubleday Books; 1973}

05 Jun 05 - 03:02 AM (#1500373)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

I would respectfully suggest you pick up a book on indentured servitude. There really was no significant difference between a bonded servant and a slave.

05 Jun 05 - 06:10 AM (#1500418)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi


You wrote:
"I would respectfully suggest you pick up a book on indentured servitude."

My response is:

If you have one or two titles {or more} of books that you would recommend that I {and anyone else} read on this subject, I would appeciate your posting them.

You also wrote: "There really was no significant difference between a bonded servant and a slave."

My response is:

It seems to me that the one of the most significant differences between systems of bonded servitude and slavery, especially chattel slavery, was that one was time limited, {or, at least, supposed to be time limited [servitude] and one was for perpetuity-not only for the person branded as a slave, but also for their descendants {slavery}.

Furthermore, as I understand it, bonded servants were considered to be human {though a lower 'class' of humans} and in chattel slavery {the form of slavery in the Western world including the USA, South America, and the Caribbean}, slaves were considered to be less than human with no possiblility of evolving {say througn intelligence testing, material accomplishments, or religious conversion} to the 'level' of human}.


Allen, while I consider this conversation interesting, I believe that it is a digression from the purpose of this thread which is to provide examples & commentary of secular slave songs that are of {or may be of} African American origin.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I would be interested in you posting in this thread the titles of books that you recommend on this subject.

However, if you feel strongly about engaging in a conversation about the differences-if any- between the institutions of indentured servitude and slavery, may I suggest that you start a thread on the subject.

Perhaps Catters & Guests reading this thread as well as Catters & Guest who may not be interested in the subject of African American secular folk songs will have some comments to make on that subject.

Thank you.


05 Jun 05 - 06:27 AM (#1500423)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Allen

Shall we start a BS topic then?

05 Jun 05 - 11:01 AM (#1500498)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Abby Sale

Just to stay in the BS area briefly - this is an issue I've considered, if not become expert in.

It seems to me that the one of the most significant differences between systems of bonded servitude and slavery, especially chattel slavery, was that one was time limited, {or, at least, supposed to be time limited [servitude] and one was for perpetuity-not only for the person branded as a slave, but also for their descendants {slavery}.

True, of course, but it also points up that if the system was commonly abused without societal or legal sanctions, there was little difference. Bonded servents were often abused, denied any legal rights, forced to "pay off their debt" over a lifetime and thoroughly degraded.

Furthermore, as I understand it, bonded servants were considered to be human {though a lower 'class' of humans} and in chattel slavery {the form of slavery in the Western world including the USA, South America, and the Caribbean}, slaves were considered to be less than human with no possiblility of evolving {say througn intelligence testing, material accomplishments, or religious conversion} to the 'level' of human}.

To me, that's the key point. And a terrifying one. And one that has been very hard (for me) to get across to other people. Modern people seem to reject the social definition of "human." Jews, Gypsies, blacks, retardeds in Nazi Germany could not be slaughtered without even trumped-up "justifications" until they were legally redefined as sub-human. In ancient Greece, all humans had legal status but this was restricted to Greek adult males. The principle is very widespread but usually applies to the whole tribe/ethnos. That is, the name for almost all African & American tribes ultimately is defined as "people" or "human." Thus, generally, you cannot kill tribe members but you can kill others freely. Etc.

But it is my understanding that the US experience was nearly unique in its barbarity and disfunctionality. Slaves in most other societies (eg, Greek or Hebrew or first American) had most of the same rights as free. They could appeal to society at large on ill-treatment and society would sternly sanction the owner. Eventually they could usually become full citizens. In Jamaica, slaves could own property, even real property, had a day off and could (with difficulty) purchase their own freedom. I don't know about the rest of the Caribbean.


05 Jun 05 - 11:10 AM (#1500502)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Abby Sale

In doing in advance, for a change, the "happy?" for June 12, I reminded myself of "Little Willie."
See Digital Tradition, filename[ LTTLWILL: Most "Little Willie" rhymes come from the 1899 book, Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes author given as "Col. D. Streamer" (actually Harry Graham, 1874-1936) and then More Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, 1930. Many of them, especially the "Willie" rhymes went into popular tradition and soon many new "Ruthless Rhymes" arose spontaneously. It was (is?) a fairly common children's challenge to each recite one Willie. The one who recites most rhymes wins.

It was also common (again, among white, middle class boys & girls on Long Island, c.1950-1965 - ie, grade school through college) to announce to the crowd that on had a new "Willie." All would typically pay careful attention. These were always "Little Willie" rhymes, never the other Graham material which was really very similar.

They have resurfaced on the WWW now but, of course, I have no notion if kids use them.

05 Jun 05 - 11:20 AM (#1500504)
From: harpgirl

Here's a lullaby from "Step It Down" Games, Plays, Songs& Stories from the Afro-American Heritage, by Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes


Go to sleep little baby, little baby,
Before the booger man catch you.

All them horses in that lot,
Go to sleepy, little baby

Go to sleep, go to sleep
Go to sleepy, little baby.

Mama went away and she told me to stay
and take good care of this baby.

Go to sleep, go to sleep,
Go to sleepy, little baby.

All them horses in that lot
Go to sleepy, little baby
Can't you hear them horses trot?
Go to sleepy, little baby

Go to sleep, go to sleep
Go to sleepy, little baby

If I rock this baby to sleep
Go to sleepy, little baby
Someday he will remember me
Go to sleepy little baby.

Go to sleep, go to sleepy
Go to sleepy little baby.

05 Jun 05 - 11:20 AM (#1500505)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Thank you for your comments, Abby.

I've never heard of the Little Willie rhymes. I'll check out the DigitalTrad.

And let me take this opportunity to thank you for your "Happy" posts!


05 Jun 05 - 11:42 AM (#1500516)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Abby Sale

Another type, non-challenge but reciting one would generally call for another, was bawdy travesties of nursery rhymes. I enjoy collecting bawdy children's material simply because so many people irrationally reject the notion that children have any. In fact, of course, they have a many.

There is a Mudcat thread, "Fractured Nursery Rhymes" with a large number but provenance is rarely given. I suspect that many are adult.

I'll post all those I personally remembered from grade school.

Twinkle Twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Way up in the sky so high
Just like a fucking lightbulb

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her brother

Mary had a little sheep
And with that sheep she went to sleep
The sheep turned out to be a ram
So Mary had a little lamb

Jack and Jill went up the hill
Each with a buck and a quarter
Jill came down with two-and-a-half
Did you think they went up for water?

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack jumped over the candlestick
And burned his ass.

Old King Cole was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he
He called for his pipe
And he called for his bowl
And he called for his..........? (sorry)

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the Kings horses
and all the Kings men
???Couldn't do shit about it

Hickory dickory doc
Three mice ran up the clock
The clock struck one
???Right in the balls

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner
Eating himself.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And one fucking petunia

05 Jun 05 - 11:43 AM (#1500519)
Subject: Lyr Add: I'LL GET YOU RABBIT
From: Azizi

I have tried but can't locate an article that I had which was written by a Black author in the 1960s. The author wrote lamenting the fact that Black children in her community only knew a few Rabbit songs and their accompanying games {usually the rhymes were said as a prelude to a chasing game}.

I think that few children of any race know these songs now, or if they do, they know them only as poems in books of American folk song books. And seldom do these books provide any acknowledgment of these songs African American roots.

So, without further comment, here is one example of a Rabbit rhyme:

Thomas W. Talley, "Negro Folk Rhymes", p. 116

"Rabbit! Rabbit! You'se a mighty habit,
A-runnin' through de grass,
Eatin' up my cabbages;
But I'll git you shore at las'

Rabbit! Rabbit! Ole rabbit in de bottons,
A-playin' in de san',
By tomorrow mornin'
You'll be in my fryin' pan."

05 Jun 05 - 12:39 PM (#1500544)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg

This thread contains a number of posted songs, poems, etc. that have not been added in the way the FAQ asks us to add them. This means they will be hard to find if others come searching. Do you want to hide your contributions so others can't make use of them? That's the effect that occurs when you don't follow the guidlines. It would be like habitually putting books back in a library, in the wrong place.

I hope the people who posted them will do the "fix" often suggested, which is to post a new post with ADD: [song title] as the subject-- not in the body of the post, but IN THE SUBJECT LINE box that appears above the "compose" box. Anyone can do it as a favor to everyone, so maybe since Azizi is caling this her thread, she'll do it.


05 Jun 05 - 01:52 PM (#1500588)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

Excellent thread azizi. You sure know your stuff! Thanks for some fine reading.

05 Jun 05 - 04:31 PM (#1500695)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Thanks Guest.

I appreciate your comment.


And here's a new African proverb "Bickering belittles the bicker".


05 Jun 05 - 04:40 PM (#1500699)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg

Azizi, as you know, I've offered to help you keep track of it all, and I've offered to help fix posts. I've offered a place to keep an index. You want to get defensive about that, it's on you.

It's not bickering to ask people to follow very simple posting guidelines that apply to us all. This is important work-- I'm just aksing that it be treated as such so that it might actually benefit others. You want it to benefit others, I hope-- or is this just a place to collect "field data" and then keep it where no one but you can benefit from it?

It surprises me that a "scholar" prefers to do sloppy work rather than work with people. But hey, OK by me!


05 Jun 05 - 04:58 PM (#1500714)
Subject: Lyr Add: HE IS MY HORSE
From: Azizi

I've been meaning to include this particular song, and now is as good a time as any:

Talley, "Negro Folk Rhymes" p. 16

One day as I wus a-ridin' by
Said dey: "Ole man, yo' hoss will die"=
If he dies, he is my loss;
An' if he lives, he is my hoss"

Nex' day w'en I come a-ridin' by,
Dey said: "Ole man yo' hoss may die,"
"If he dies, I'll tan 'is skin:
An' if he lives, I'll ride 'im ag'in."

Drn ag'in w'en I come a-ridin' by,
Said dey: "Ole man, yo' hoss mought die."-
"If he dies, I'll eat his co'n"
And if he lives, I'll ride 'im on."

05 Jun 05 - 05:20 PM (#1500727)
From: Azizi

In 1965 or thereabouts the R&B group "The Temptations" recorded the hit song "Beauty's Only Skin Deep". That title comes from a still widely used African American folk saying:

"Beauty's only skin deep but ugly is clean to the bone."

IMO, this African American secular slave folk rhyme is the origin of those sayings:

Talley, "Negro Folk Rhymes", p. 2

Love is jes a thing o' fancy,
Beauty's jes a blossom;
If you wantrs to git yo' finger bit,
Stick it at a 'possum.

Beauty, it's jes skin deep;
Ugly, it;s to de bone.
Beauty, it'll jes fad 'way;
But Ugly'll hol' er own.


Here's two versions of a mid to late 1980s dance style cheerleader/foot stomping cheer that has the same 'dissin' theme:

You ain't got no alibi
You ugly.
Yeah Yeah
you ugly.

this is how you got that way
You're momma
Yeah Yeah
You're momma.

Source {"Wildcats" movie, 1986}

You ain't got no alibi
You ugly.
What?! What?!
you ugly.

Source: Janelle Howard {African American female, Pittsburgh, Penn; ; memories of Pittsburgh in early late 1980s; collected by Azizi Powell, 9/2004; Janelle said that her school's cheerleaders had been saying this rhyme long before the movie "Wildcats". In that movie a "ghettofied" African American cheerleading troup chanted this rhyme to the other team's much more 'sedate' cheerleaders.

Ms. Azizi Powell

05 Jun 05 - 05:22 PM (#1500729)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi


Let me correct a typo:

"Here's a new African proverb "Bickering belittles the


05 Jun 05 - 07:55 PM (#1500791)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Azizi, some 14 of the songs you posted were not put in the subject heading. A number of mine are seemingly BURIED as well, since I also thought ADD Lyrics: ---- in the body of the text was sufficient.
Instructions on posting lyrics are about as clear as creamed potato soup.

Question to wysiwyg or Joe. Would it be sufficient to post them as subjects ?

LOST in the FAQ are instructions in a post 19 Mar 00. One has to scroll down through pages of material to find them.
In a second paragraph it states that "I'm working on refining guidelines for submitting lyrics."
The first paragraph 1st line states -song title in the first line ALL IN CAPS. In the 1st paragraph it says TITLE OF SONG IN ALL CAPS.
WHAT first line?
"Very simple posting guidelines"?


05 Jun 05 - 09:47 PM (#1500853)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg

Q, "song title on the first line IN ALL CAPS" means the first line of the post when posting a song, or the first line of the song if it comes in mid-post. The reason is because that's the format the DT harvestors want, to limit the amount of fixing and standardizing a harvestor has to do, to put the song into the DT's next update.

Regarding subject lines, it's been discussed many, many times, and it appears in FAQ Joe's post at the end of the third paragraph.

It's "LOST in the FAQ" if one uses the handy table of contents. From the links in the TOC (either "Guide for Posting Lyrics" or "Posting Lyrics") appears the following in Joe's 19 Mar 00 - 09:24 PM post:

I'm working on refining guidelines for submitting lyrics. Here's a copy of my e-mail to somebody:

Hi - we'd love to have any folk lyrics you'd like to post at the Mudcat Cafe. All lyrics that are submitted stay in the forum, and people can find them using our search engines. Many of the lyrics are also "harvested" and included in the Digital Tradition Folk Song Database, which now has lyrics for some 9,000 songs (you can access the database in the blue DigiTrad search box you find on most Mudcat pages).
If you'd like to post a song, first check that database to see whether it's already there or not. Make sure you put the lyrics in a thread that has a title that's related to the song (like an ongoing thread that's collecting train songs, if that's appropriate; or a thread you start that has the song title as the title of the thread.). The SUBJECT line for the message with the lyrics should include this information:
LYRICS ADD: title of song here

Ideally, you should follow the Digital Tradition Format:
song title on the first line IN ALL CAPS
songwriter name (in parentheses) on the second line
skip a pace
then the lyrics
then any notes
and then finish off with your initials
Yes, there are copyright questions, but we leave it to the operators of the Digital Tradition to deal with them. In the meantime, we ask people to feel free to post whatever lyrics they'd like in the Mudcat Forum - keeping in mind that we are primarily a folk and blues site.

-Joe Offer, Sacramento, California-


And it's been said over and over aagin in numerous threads in the main forumn and in the Help forum, that if one forgets, one can simply post a fresh post with the changed subject line, indicating in the post "Please see previous post [date] [time] from [name of poster].

As far as "woirking on refining," the whole FAQ is a constant work in progress of being refined. If it's been in there for awhile (not been removed in a recent edit), it's valid.

Mechanically, it's done just the same way one changes the subject line of a PM.

BTW, any time you're looking for text you think is lost in a sea of text, you can always use your browser's "Find in Page" feature to skip right to the text you want. It's very handy when you Google and need to see just the item you Googled to see if it's a result you want. It's also a handy way of finding things within the FAQ.

    It's no big deal if the message title isn't changed, Susan. I monitor all lyrics threads pretty well. If lyrics are posted and not tagged or formatted properly, I'll fix them. Not to worry.
    It's probably better not to waylay music discussions with instructions on format.
    -Joe Offer-

05 Jun 05 - 09:59 PM (#1500857)
Subject: Lyr Add: CRIOLE CANDJO
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Arr. by H. E. Krebiel

(Creole coonjar, cundio, Koundjo, counjaille)

In zou' in zéne Criole candjo,
Belle passé blanc dan-dan là yo,
Li té tout tans apé dire,
"Vini, zamie, pou' nous rire."
"Non, Miché, m'pas oulé rire moin,
Non Miché, m'pas oulé rire;
Non, Miché, m'pas onlé rire moin,
Non, Miché, m'pas oulé rire."

Mo courri dans youn bois viosin,
Mais Criole là prend même ci min,
Et tous tans li m'apé dire,
"Vini, zamie, pou' nous rire."
"Non, Miché, m'pas oulé rire moin,
Non, Miché, m'pas oulé rire."

Mais li té tant cicané moi,
Pou li té quitté moin youn fois
Mo té 'blizé pou' li dire,
"Oui, Miché, mo oulé rire,
Oui, Miché, mo oulé rire moin,
Oui, Miché, mo oulé rire."

Zant tous qu'ap'ès rire moin là-bas
Si zaut te conne Candjo là,
Qui belle façon li pou' rire,
Djé pini moin! zaut s'ré dire,
"Oui, Miché, mo oulé rire moin,
Oui, Miché, mo oulé rire."

One day one young Creole Candio,
Mo' fineh dan sho' nuff white beau,
Kip all de time meckin' free,
"Swit-hawt, meck merrie wid me!"
"Naw, sah, I dawn't want meck merrie, me,
Naw sah, I dawn't want meck merrie;
Naw sah, I dawn't want meck merrie, me,
Naw sah, I dawn't want meck merrie!"

(I go teck walk in wood close by,
But Creole teck same road and try
All time all time to meck free-
"Swithawt, meck merrie wid me."
"Naw sah, I dawn't want meck merrie, me,
Nah sah, I dawn't want meck merrie."

But him slide 'round an 'round dis chile,
Tell jis fo' sheck 'im off lill while
Me I was bleedze fo' say: "Shoo!
If I'll meck merrie wid you?
O, yass, I ziss leave meck merrie, me,
Yass, sah, I ziss leave meck merrie."

You-alls wat laugh at me so well,
I wish you'd knowed dat Creole swell,
Wid all 'is swit, smilin' trick.
'Pon my soul! you'd done say, quick,
"O, yass, I ziss leave meck merrie, me.
Yass, sah. I ziss leave meck merrie,"

The melody written down by Mr. Macrum. English paraphrase by George W. Cable. A note to Krehbiel from Lafcadio Hearn who (at that time a resident of New Orleans), says: "My quadroon neighbor, Mamzelle Eglantine, tells me that the word koundjo (in the West Indies Candio or Candjo) refers to an old African dance which used to be danced with drums. The 'Criole Candjo' ... is sort of a [black] Creole dandy who charms and cajoles women by his dancing- what the French would call un beau valseur."

pp. 118-120, H. E. Krehbiel, 1913, "Afro-American Folk-Songs." Krehbiel corresponded with Lafcadio Hearn in New Orleans in the period 1877-1884, and discussed this and other secular songs with him. George Cable was in correspondence with both Krehbiel and Hearn, and inchuded the above version of the song, credited to krehbiel, in the article "Creole Slave Songs," printed in the Century Magazine, 1886.
Cable, in his description of dances he saw in Place Congo, said the counjaile was accompanied by posing, breast-patting and chanting. He remarked that the counjaile songs were never complete, ending only at the caprice of the improvisator, "whose rich, stentorian voice sounded alone between the refrains. Of the dancers, cable said, "let one flag, another has his place, and a new song gives new vehemence, new inventions in steps, turns, and attitudes." Cable, 1885, "The Dance in Place Congo," Century Magazine, vol. 31, pp. 517-532, Dec.
The Century Magazine is reproduced on line,

05 Jun 05 - 11:28 PM (#1500885)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi


I consulted three books that I have on dances during 17th-19th slavery in the Caribbean and the United States and can find no reference to a dance called the 'Candjo'.

I'm wondering if the quadroon neigbor meant the 'Calenda '{Kalinda} which is one of the early African derived dances that is extensively documented in the Caribbean and Southern USA. {the others being the Chica, Juba {guiba} and Bamboula}.

Here's an excerpt from an essay by Nathaniel Hamilton Crowell, Jr entitled 'What is Congolese In Caribbean Dance' that is included in Caribbean Dance from Abakua to Zouk: How Movement Shapes Identity {Susanna Sloat, editor; University of Florida, 2002; p.15}:

"A description of thee calenda as danced in the French West Indies at the end of the eighteenth century states:

One male and one female dancer, or an equal number of dancers of each sex push to the middle of the circle and begin to dance, remaining in pairs, This repetitious dance consists of a very simple step where, as in the "Anglais" one alternatively extends each foot and withdrwas it, tapping several times with the heel and toe. All one sees is the man spinning himself or swirling around his partner, who, herself, also spins and moves about, unless one is to count the raising and lowering of the arms of the dancerrs who hold their elbows close to their sides with the hands almost clenched. The woman holds both ends of a kerchief which she rocks from side to side. When one has not witnessed it himself, it is hard to believe how lively and animated it is as well as how the rigourous following of the meter gives it such grace. {Moreau de St Mery, quoted in Emery, 1988, 22-23"


"Emery" is Lynne Fauley Emery, author of "Black Dance from 1619 To Today", Second Revised Edition;Princeton Book Co. ]I was delighted to find this book at a used book store!]


As a theory that might or might not have any 'legs', I'm wondering if the 'Criole Candjo' {who} is sort of a [black] Creole dandy who charms and cajoles women by his dancing"...and is also called "koundjo (in the West Indies Candio or Candjo)" might refer to the Ghanaian Akan day name "Kwadwo" which is more commonly written as "Cudjo" and means "male born on Monday". The Ewe form of this name is "Coujoe" and also means "male born on Monday" *

Has anyone else made a connection between that rather widely used day name {particularly during 17th and 18th century slavery} and the name of that dance as noted by Lafcadio Hearn?

* "Kofi" {male born on Friday} was another common Akan day name found among enslaved Black men in the Caribbean and the USA..This name eventually became "Cuff"; and "Coffee". "Kwaku" [and its variant "Quack"] was another common Akan name {male born on Wednesday} that is found in slave records.

Perhaps because they did not sound as much like "English" names", the other Akan male day names don't appear as ofren in slave records "Kwabena" ["Kobena"; though this might have been transformed to "Ben"] {male born on Tuesday}; "Kwame" {male born on Saturday, "Kwesi" {male born on Sunday} and "Yao" ["Yaw"] {male born on Thursday}.

The retention of female Akan names is a whole 'nother subject.

See this list of Akan female day names:
Sunday {Esi} [which became "Essie"??]; Monday {Adwoa}; Tuesday
{Abena}; Wednesday {Ekua}; Thursday {Yaa} ; Friday {Efua};
and Saturday {Ama}[could this be one explaination for the Afrian American custom still practiced today of calling little girls "Mama"???]   

Azizi Powell

06 Jun 05 - 01:19 AM (#1500913)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Allen et al. show that in their area, the dances had been lost- The coonjar was a type of minuet and the calinda a sort of contradance.
(Or were hidden?)
Tomorrow I will post some Calinda and Bamboula, as they were called by Hearn, Krehbiel and Cable, and observed in Place Congo and in the West Indies. There were other dances, but they were not described, so their nature is uncertain.

These terms may not have the same meaning in all areas.

Cable said the Calinda in Louisiana was always a grossly personal satirical ballad..." "The Calinda was a dance of multitude, a sort of vehement cotillion." Hearn says that in Martinique the Calinda and Bele were danced to the drum. I must locate Hearn's book on the West Indies, which I have somewhere.

06 Jun 05 - 02:24 AM (#1500928)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: mg

how about sea shanties and river boat loading songs? mg

06 Jun 05 - 08:41 AM (#1501068)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

More on 'Candjo':

See this excerpt from harold Courlander's Negro Folk Music, U.S.A {Columbia University Prss, p. 192; 1968} that refutes what I wrote earlier:

"The term Counjaille, or Coonjine, is still used in southern United States waterfront areas to mean moving or loading cotton, an activity that once in all probability, was accompanied by Counjaille-type songs and rhythms. Negro children on the docks and levies sang such songs as:

Throw me a nickel, throw me a dime
if you want to see me do the Coonjine."


I take it the children were asking White passerbyers to throw them money and they would do a dance that was patterned after movements made by those loading cotton.

I remember this verse pattern when I was growing up in Atlantic City, New Jersey {1950s, early 1960s} as

You get a nickel, and I'll get a dime
And we'll go out and buy some wine.
Drinkin wine, wine, wine
Drinkin wine, wine, wine
Drinkin wine all the time.


This might have come from some recorded song that we had heard.


In his chapter on books Courlander also writes about The Calinda dance that Moreau de St. Mery saw in the West Indies in 1798.
Courlander also mentions the fact that there was an old Rumanian dance called the Colinda, but doesn't give any information about that dance's movements.

06 Jun 05 - 08:53 AM (#1501079)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Abby Sale

But not always, of course.

Note good text & material on "Mister Rabbit" as a lullaby and game song, properly cited several times but not in the data base that I can find.

Pretty song, as I know it.


(Azizi already popsted there)

06 Jun 05 - 09:02 AM (#1501086)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Still more on 'Candjo':

The problem with linquistics is that there are multiple words with similar spelling and sound but with very different origins and meanings.

Take this word "Candjo".

Here's the excerpt from Q's 05 Jun 05 - 09:59 PM post:

"A note to Krehbiel from Lafcadio Hearn who (at that time a resident of New Orleans), says: "My quadroon neighbor, Mamzelle Eglantine, tells me that the word koundjo (in the West Indies Candio or Candjo) refers to an old African dance which used to be danced with drums. The 'Criole Candjo' ... is sort of a [black] Creole dandy who charms and cajoles women by his dancing- what the French would call un beau valseur."


Note the reference to New Orleans, quadroon, and Creole.

And see this quote from Courlander's book Negro Folk Rhymes, U.S.A {p, 193}:

"Errors of fact compounded errors of understanding. Cable [a White man who provided documentation of Black dances in New Orleans' Congo Square, 19th century] referred both in articles and stories to the 'candio', which he identified as an African of royal blood.
In actuality, the 'candio {pronounced 'canzo' in Haiti and West Africa} was a mmber of an elevated level of the Vodoun cult. A person who was of 'canzo' rank had passed through a fire ordeal and had thus risen about the level of the ordinary servitor."


BTW, I like that sentence "Errors of fact compounded errors of understanding" and believe it may be relevant to my 'Akan name theory." First of all, I have no idea if any Akan persons at all were enslaved in the New Orleans are, but I know that the religion that came to be called 'voodoo' [hoodoo] was very much a part of New Orleans culture.

So this is a example where my enthusiasm got in the way of my judgement.

To use a Hip-Hop phrase: "My bad".


Mg, you asked "How about sea shanties and river boat loading songs?"

I haven't been collecting these songs. I understand that boat crews were quite integrated, but certainly the call & response pattern of these songs suggests some African {Black} influence. And there may be some floating verses in those songs that are common to other Black folk songs of those times.

I will check through books that I have to see whether there are examples that I can post.

And, hopefully, others will posts some of these songs.


06 Jun 05 - 09:21 AM (#1501105)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi


I had forgotten that I had posted to that thread in 2004.

And what is a hoot is that I used basically the same words in mentioning that article that I can't find about the disappearance of rabbit songs.

Well, at least I shared another rabbit song in this thread and not the same one as that other thread that you linked to!

And while I'm at it, let me correct a typo that I made:

"Rabbit! Rabbit! You'se a mighty habit,
A-runnin' through de grass,
Eatin' up my cabbages;
But I'll git you shore at las'"


Best wishes,


PS. I also found that Aug 2004 post to be interesting to me as I had thought my first post on Mucat was in September 2004.

I guess I've been here a little bit longer than I thought.

Time passes when you're havin fun!

06 Jun 05 - 03:37 PM (#1501275)
Subject: Lyr Add: MICHIÉ PRÉVAL
From: Q (Frank Staplin)


Michié Préval li donnin gran' bal,
Li fait nèg payé pou'sauter in pé.

(Alternate 1st verse from Cable)
Miché Préval li donné youn bal,
Le fé naig payé trois piass pou rentré

Dansé, Calinda, *boudjoum, boudjoum,
Dansé, Calinda, boudjoum, boudjoum.
* Cable; Krehbiel substituted boudoum.

Dans l'equi vié la yavé gran gala;
Mo cré soual la yé té *b'en étonné.
* bien

Miché Préval, li té Capitaine bal;
Et so coché, Louis, té maitr' cérémonie.

Y'avé de néress belles passé maitresse,
Qui volé bel-bel dans l'ormoire momselle.

"Comment, Sazou, té volé mo cuilotte?"
"Non, no maitr', mo ddi vous mo zes prend bottes."

Ala maite la geôle li trouvé si drôle,
Li dit, "Moin aussi, mo fé bal ici."

Ouatchman la yé yé tombé la dans;
Yé fé gran' déga dans léquirie la."

Yé prend maitr' Préval yé mett*#233; li prison,
Pasque li donnin bal pou volé nous l'arzan.
Etc., not given in Cable or Krehbiel.

The following is a translation provided in a letter to krehbiel from Lafcadio Hearn. It is not exactly correct as Hearn tried to be humorous. He also added translations of verses that are not given in gombo above.

Monsieur Préval gave a big ball; he made the darkies pay for their little hop.
The grand gala took place in the stable; I fancy the horses were greatly amazed.
M. Préval was Captain of the ball; his coachman, Louis, was Master of ceremonies.
He gave a supper to regale the darkies; his old music was enough to give one the colic.
Then the old jackass came in to dance; danced precisely as he reared, on his hind legs.
There were negresses there prettier than their mistresses; they had stolen all manner of fine things from the wardrobes of their young mistresses.
Black and white both danced the bamboula; never again will you see such a fine time.
Nancy Latiche (?) to fill out her stockings put in the false calves of her madame.
"How, now, Sazou, you stole my trousers?" "No, my master, I took only your boots."
And a little miss cried out: "See here, you negress, you stole my dress."
It all seemed very droll to the keeper of the jail; he said, "I'll get up a dance (of another sort) for you here."
At M. Préval's, in Hospital Street, the darkies had to pay for their little hop.
He took M. Préval and put him in the lock-up, because he gave a ball to steal our money.
Poor M. Préval! I guess he feels pretty sick; he'll give no more balls in Hospital Street.
He had to pay $100 and had a pretty time finding the money.
He said: "Here's an end of that; no more balls without a permit."

This satirical song is said to preserve the rhythm of the Calinda (calienda, la calenda), the name possibly derived from Spanish Qué linda!
The lyrics suggest the time in New Orleans when well-to do whites would set up their slave mistresses in a house, with rooms for the mother and a slave maid. The mistress sometimes made sufficient money to buy her freedom.
Lyrics from Krehbiel, with music, supplemented from Cable (also with music, slightly different). Krehbiel described it as a satirical song, not using the name Calinda. Words and music, Henry E. Krehbiel, pp. 152-153, 1913, "Afro-American Folk-Songs."
It seems that the true Calinda disappeared(?) from Louisiana sometime before the Civil War, when much of the Sunday activity was prohibited in Place Congo.
From old reports, the dance, performed to drums, was active, performed by men twirling sticks in mock fight (with a crowd giving responses), the form never recorded and its choreographic history not yet determined (Dena Epstein, p. 33. The Louisiana planter, Le Page du Pratz (reported in Moreau de Sainte-Méry, 1797)said: "Nothing is more to be dreaded than to see the Negroes assemble together on Sundays, since under pretense of Calinda, or the dance, they sometimes get together to the number of three or four hundred, and make a kind of Sabbath, which it is always prudent to avoid; for it is in those tumultous meetings that they .... plot their rebellions." (From Dena J. Epstein, 1977, p. 32, "Sinful Tunes and Spirituals, Black Folk Music to the Civil War"). Hearn observed the Calinda in the West Indies, where sometimes the mock fight became real, and even cutlasses were used. (Letters to Krehbiel, 1880s). Krehbiel surmised that its origin may have been a war dance.

Cable commented: "The Calinda was a dance of multitude." He notes its confusion with the Chica, "a kind of fandango, they say in which the Madras kerchief held by its tip-ends played a graceful part."

06 Jun 05 - 03:51 PM (#1501284)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Verse 4- négresse, not néress

Last verse in Patois:
Yé prend maitr' Préval yé metté li prison,
Pasque li donnin bal pou vol nous l'arzan.

05 Jul 05 - 11:07 AM (#1515379)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Le Scaramouche

In the notes to the Waterson's version of the Pirckle-Holly Bush ( Child 95 Maid Freed from the Gallows, Gallis Pole, Hangman) Bert Lloyd wrote:

American blacks took to the song (Leadbelly had a good version), and after the Watts ghetto riots of 1965, a set appeared in which a young black looter appears in court to face a heavy fine or the "gallows twine." The rescuer in this case is neither father, mother nor sweetheart but a social worker who arrives with the money just in time.

Does anyone know of this (or any others like) reworking, or have lyrics?
I do hope it's not just him.

05 Jul 05 - 01:17 PM (#1515487)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Azizi

The first folk album that I can recall hearing was by Odetta.

I was impressed by Odetta's voice, the songs, and the fact that was one of the first Black woman I had ever seen who wore her hair in an afro.

All these many years later I have forgotten the name of that album, but remember that she performed that hangman song.


Dorothy Scaborough's "On The Trail Of Negro Folk Songs", Folklore Associates edition, 1963; originally published in 1925 by Harvard University Press, has an entire section on African American's perservation and reworking of Traditional [UK] songs and ballads.
That chapter includes a 3 1/2 page example of "Hangman"m complete with stage directions.

{To Father}
Father, have you come?
And have you come at last?
And have you brought my gold?
And will you pay my fee?
Or is it your intention to see me hang
Here all under this willow tree?

{Father to Son}
Yes, I've come, I've come.
I have not brought your gold.
I will not pay your fee.
T' my intention to see you hung
Here all under this willow tree.


That chapter includes other variants of this song entitled "Hangman, Slack on the Line".

That chapter also includes versions of "Lady Isabel and Teh Elf Knight", "Frog Went A'Courtin", "Old Bangum", "A Little Boy Threw His Ball", "Lord Lovell", "So We Hunted and We Hollered", and other songs...

05 Jul 05 - 01:28 PM (#1515494)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Bronson, in "The Singing Tradition of Child's Popular Ballads," remarked that the English variants have a "prickly bush burden" which has been lost in America. See also the long entry in "The Traditional Ballad Index."
The song variants of "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" has been collected from many singers in America, mostly white, although Bronson noted that "among the Negroes the ballad is still sung and said in the form of a cante-fable" (writing in 1976).
I presume that the Lead Belly version, like other American versions, lacks the 'prickly bush' lines.
Since the song has been so widespread, it would be hard to say where Lead Belly got his version, although I can see that the subject of hanging could influence the attitude of African-Americans to the ballad.
The note by Lloyd is not helpful. The version given in the writeup is not American.

05 Jul 05 - 06:56 PM (#1515546)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Le Scaramouche

I know the Leadbelly version, very famous, in fact knew it before ever hearing the Prickle-Eye (hollie, whatever) refrain. His version was also covered by Led Zeppelin.
Nobody was saying the transcript in the link WAS American, I want to know about the modern reworking from '65.

Azizi, do you have the the lyrics to that version of the Elf Knight?
And does it feature the blasted budgie?

05 Jul 05 - 08:06 PM (#1515598)
From: GUEST,Azizi

Add Lyrics:


Source: Dorothy Scarborough "On The Trail Of Negro Folk Songs"
       Folklore Associates Edition, 1963; pp 44-45
       {originally published in 1925; Harvard University Press

There was a tall an' handsome man,
Who come a'courtin' me.
He said, "Steal out after dark to-night
An' come a-ridin' with me, with me,
An' come a-ridin' with me.

"An' you may ride your milk-white steed
An' I my apple bay."
We rid out from my mother's house
Three hours befo' de day, de day,
Three hours befo' de day.

I mounted on my milk-white steed
And he rode hi apple bay.
We rid on till we got to the oean,
An' den my lover say, lover say.
An' den my lover say:

"Sit down, sit down, sweetheart," he say,
"An' listen you to me.
Pull off dat golden robe you wears
An' fold hit on yo' knee, yo' knee,
An' fold hit on yo' knee.

O ax him why my golden robe
Must be folded on his knee.
"It is too precious to be rotted away
By the salt water sea, water sea,
By the salt water sea."

I say, "Oh, sweetheart, carry me back home,
My mother for to see,
For I'm afeared I'll drowned be
In this salt water sea, water sea,
In this salt water sea."

He tuck my hand and drug me in

I say, "Oh sweetheart, take me back!
The water's up to my feet, my feet,
The water's up to my feet."

He smile at me an' draw me on.
"Come on, sweetheart, sweetheart,
We soon will be across the stream,
We've reached the deepest part, deepest part,
We've reached the deepest part.

As I went on I cry an' say,
"The water's up to my knees!
Oh, take me home! I'm afeared to be drowned
In this salt water sea, water sea,
In this salt water sea."

He pull me on an' say, "Sweetheart,
Lay all your fears aside.
We soon will be across it now
We've reached the deepest tide, deepest tide,
We've reached the deepest tide."

I sank down in the stream an' cry,
"The water's up to my waist,"
He pull at me an' drug me on;
He say, "Make haste, make haste, make haste,"
He say, "Make haste, make haste."

I cry to him, "The water's up to my neck."
"Lay all your fears aside.
We soon will be across it now,
We've reached the deepest tide, deepest tide,
We've reached the deepest tide."


O cought hol' of de tail of my milk-white steed,
He was drowned wid his apple bay.
I pulled out of de water an' landed at my mother's house
An hour befo' de day, de day.
An hour befo' de day.

My mother say, "Pretty Polly, who is dat,
A-movin' softily?"
An' I say to my Polly, "Pretty Polly,
Don't you tell no tales on me, on me,
Don't you tell no tales on me."

An' my mother saym "Is dat you Polly?
Up so early befo' day?"
"Oh, dat mus' be a kitty at yo' door,"
Is all my Polly say, Polly say,
Is all my Polly say.


Scarborough wrote that she overheard and old Negro woman in Waco, Texas crooning this song to a baby.

The dots are gaps in the woman's memory of the lyrics.

06 Jul 05 - 03:07 AM (#1515851)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Le Scaramouche

Fascinating. Thanks.
Interesting that the man doesn't inform her of his Bluebeardish tendencies.

06 Jul 05 - 07:55 AM (#1515990)
Subject: Lyr Add: WAKE UP BABY
From: Abby Sale

I never had the impression Odetta's version was an especially AA one. I took it to simply be one she'd picked up on the folk circuit. And then made it a distinctively Odetta song. I'd be very interested to learn otherwise.


I don't recall that Scarborough mentions Our Goodman (X Nights Drunk, #274) but it's about the only Child ballad I know that made it all the way to blues. Of course the topic matter is a natural for Chicago Blues.

Sonny Boy Williamson #2, (Aleck `Rice' Miller) does a complete & fine version (accompanied by no less than Robert Jr. Lockwood, Luther Tucker, Otis Spann & Wee Willie Dixon) on Chess CH-9257 (1958 & 1989). It's most similar to Bronson ver. #28.

         Wake Up Baby

         I come home one night,
         I was tired as a man could be.
         I saw a mule in my stable,
         Whar' my mule supposed to be.

         Wake up. Baby.
         Explain all this stuff to me.
         Who's mule's that in my stable,
         Whar' my mule supposed to be?

         Said, "You must be silly, you talk right funny,
         Why don't you open up your eyes and see,
         You know that ain't nothin' but a milk-cow,
         That my mother sent to me."

         I been all over the world.
         To Gulf of Mexico.
         I never saw no milk-cow,
         With a saddle on its back befo'.

         Next night when I come home, I was tired as a man could be.
         I saw a hat on the dresser, Whar' my hat supposed to be.

         I said, "Wake up. Darlin'. Explain all this stuff to me.
         Who's hat on the dresser, Whar' my hat supposed to be?"

         Said, "You must be silly. Daddy you ain't talkin' right,
         Why don't you open up your eyes and see,
         You know that ain't nothin' but a wash-pan,
         That my grandmother sent to me.

         I been all over the world. And to Gulf o' Mexico.
         You know I never saw no washpan, With a hatband around it befo'.

         The next night when I come home, I was tired as a man could be.
         I saw a coat on my hanger, Whar' my coat supposed to be.

         I said, "Wake up. Little girl. And Explain all this stuff to me.

         Who's coat on my hanger, Whar' my coat supposed to be?".

         Said, "Daddy, you talk right silly,
         Why don't you open up yo' eyes and see,
         You know that ain't nothin' but a blanket,
         My mother-in-law sent to me."

         I been all over the world. And to Gulf o' Mexico.
         I ain't never saw no blanket, With two sleeves in them befo'.

06 Jul 05 - 08:33 AM (#1516051)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman

This discussion is close to my heart. For some years I've been trying to isolate reliable sources of genuine 19th and early 20th century African American secular songs.

Books are about all we've got. In general it's best to stay away from those printed after about 1945, as they tend to suffer from "version creep" due to the Folk Scare. It should be emphasized over and over again that the best printed primary sources are the earliest. (I.e. not Burl Ives, though "Buckeye Jim," descended from a New Orleans roustabout song, is an example of something good in his collection.)

Some of the following works have been cited above in scattered references, but it helps to pull them together as a working collection. These are outstanding, the best:

Odum and Johnson, Negro Workaday Songs
Odum and Johnson, The Negro and His Songs
Scarborough, Dorothy, On the Trail of Negro Folk Songs
Newman I. White, American Negro Folk Songs
Wolfe, Charles, Thomas W. Talley's Negro Folk Rhymes

These further collections focus on spirituals but have some secular songs and they're good early versions:

Allen William Francis et al, Slave Songs of the United States
Parrish, Lydia, Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands
Work, John C., American Negro Songs and Spirituals

General collections with much good Afro-American secular material are:

Lomax, John A and Alan, American Folk Songs and Ballads
Lomax, John A and Alan, Our Singing Country
Sandburg, Carl, American Songbag

Later Lomax collections should be avoided because of Alan Lomax's unfortunate habit of collating, rearranging and now and then recomposing material, but the above two books are fairly sound.

A great collection of largely Afro-American roustabout songs is:

Eddy, Mary O., Steamboatin' Days.

All these books are more or less hard to find, but copies may be available on Amazon-used, Abe or Alibris.

Take a look at any collections of minstrel songs you can find. Particularly in the early (1830s-1850s) history of minstrel shows in America, so far as we can tell at this late date, a number of genuine traditional Afro-American songs were used on stage. Though the degree of composition by such early performers will always be at issue (and Dan Emmett in particular composed a lot of his own material), songs like "Juba," "My Old Dad," "Jaw Bone," "Turkey Buzzard," "Clare De Kitchen," "Johnny Boker," Sally Is Your Hoecake Done," "Shew Fly," "Take Your Foot Out The Mud" and maybe "Boatman's Dance" seem to show folk origins.

Lastly, beware of recorded versions! Relatively little on record is true to the older styles. But a few songsters like Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Cotten and Blind Willie McTell (and even Leadbelly) have a few choice songs each.

On the other hand, the best modern groups like Martin, Bogan and Armstrong and Joe and Odell Thompson had a great feel for older material and are worth a hearing.

And always check the Library of Congress and other field recording collections for the Afro-American songs and music they have made available.

When you cover this much ground, you realize there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of excellent early Afro-American traditional songs out there in more or less authentic form. They turn up in strange places, like the songs Joel Chandler Harris included in two of his Uncle Remus books, some obviously his poetry, but a few sounding reasonably genuine.



06 Jul 05 - 10:47 AM (#1516174)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi


Thanks for you comment.

Would you agree that Thomas W. Talley's "Negro Folk Rhymes" should be included in the list of outstanding sources?

I would also include Bessie Jones, and Bess Lomax Hawes' "Step It Down" in this list if the study includes African American children's rhymes.

06 Jul 05 - 03:02 PM (#1516372)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Bob Cotman makes a valid point about books after 1945 (WW2 era); and some even before then. Some collectors seem to think that the sources were uncontaminated by contacts, insulated in a time capsule from the past. Schools, migration from the south to the north to find work and the backflow of ideas and information, the radio, the growth of prison farms, etc., strongly affected (impacted the modern word) local cultures.

Two very important sources not listed:

Perrow, E. C., 1911-1915, "Songs and Rhymes from the South, Jour. Amer. Folklore, vol. 25, 137-155; vol. 26, 123-173; vol. 28, 128-190. Thanks to, these articles are on line and may be downloaded.
Some 275 songs or fragments are in this collection, many from black communities.

Krehbiel, H. E., 1913 (and reprints), "Afro-American Folk-Songs." Especially useful for songs of the Black Creoles (from areas where the Catholic and Anglican religions were strong), which are often closer to African roots than the songs preserved from areas with Protestant slave holders. In spite of the 1913 date, many were collected in the 1880s.
Paperback reprints are reasonable.

29 Jan 09 - 03:24 AM (#2551703)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: TinDor

Does this include Ballads/Black Cowboy type songs?

29 Jan 09 - 10:46 PM (#2552538)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Hello, TinDor.

Feel free to post the titles or words of any songs that you believe belong to this thread category.



30 Jan 09 - 02:16 PM (#2553113)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg


As I understand it, cowboys tended not to experience the forced segregation much of the rest of the country endured in American history; I'd expect that cowboy songs flowed across cultures of origin, as well. So, I hope you will look beyond this thread into the wealth of resources captured among the various site features. Feel free also to PM anyone anytime to enquire further about how to find things of interest.

For example, the millions of cowboy songs collected at Mudcat to date (slight exaggeration) can be found by using the blue-gray Lyrics & Knowledge Search on the keyword cowboy or @cowboy. That search turns up not only songs collected into the Digital Tradition (with keywords), but also the discussion threads where even more songs have been posted and discussed.

As with the African-American Spirituals Permathread-indexed songs, the scholarship on the songs is in the individual threads, song by song. These threads are still "live" and it is not at all uncommon for a poster who has found an old thread to revive it, add to the discussion, and spark a new round of additional contributions from members.

Mudcat's general membership has always been interested in songs regardless of "racial" origin; it began as a Blues site. African American songwriters', singers', and musicians' contributions are well known and deeply valued. Please do add to the treasures.


30 Jan 09 - 04:28 PM (#2553207)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Stringsinger

Hi Azizi,

In response to:

"I am interested in knowing whether you think it is appropriate and/or important to include information that is known about the racial/ethnic origin of folk songs"

I think it is vitally important. The African-American culture is a strong element in American music. There are certain phenotypical as well as genotypical and anthropological elements that need to be identified. These elements influence musical style, scale selection and rhythm choices. (For example, African-American scales tend to flat the seventh note of a blues scale whereby the Appalachian singing style tends to sharpen that note. The flatted third, seventh and fifth notes of the blues scale have African origins.)

In general, African-American singing styles tend to be physicalized more than the stationary stance by Appalachian or Anglo-American folk singers. Much of African-American music is dance oriented. The "beat" is always there.

The facial construction of singers make a difference in vocal quality and tone production. This is a factor in musical choices in style. I had a long drawn-out discussion about this with Alan Lomax who took the "blank slate" approach that all African-American musical styles were cultural. I disagreed. I think they are "phenotypical" involving physical characteristics.

Case in point regarding singing: There has never been a Caucasion singer who could emulate Mahalia Jackson's unique gospel style successfully. That could also be applied
to Leadbelly or Ironhead Baker as well.

The aforementioned points in no way suggest that these characteristics are part of cases. There will always be discrepancies to any trend.

It is extremely important to chase down cultural and phenotypical aspects of African-American music just as it was deemed important to evaluate and analyze European so-called "Classical" music.

Secular African-American music such as Blues in its divergent categories from field holler to be-bop, Piedmont style finger picking on guitar, bottle-neck and knife-teasing guitar styles, cabaret belting from the cat-house New Orleans days, ragtime piano and the "perfessers" such as Morton, Joplin, Johnson etc..Jazz singers and blues shouters such as Ella, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey, Trixie Smith, Chippie Hill, Alberta Hunter, Ma Rainey and others, early pre-Presley rockers (rock and roll being another euphemism from the "jass" days), work related chain-gang and field hollers, bamboo pan pipes, unique banjo and fiddle playing styles, drum bands, and the development of wind instruments from the end of the Civil War in the hands of African-American musicians all have a bearing on defining African-American music. The knowledge of these roots and tributaries are so important to define what we know as American music.

Secular African-American music and its impact on Anglo-American string band music including bluegrass is important here. Also, its influence in the questionable Minstrel show tradition.

Certainly overlapping of cultures take place in music but I think it's important to know how and from where the overlapping began.

Frank Hamilton

30 Jan 09 - 04:50 PM (#2553216)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Ditto what Susan said about the great resource that is Mudcat.

However, for the record, while it appears that by virtue of the demands of that role, there was far less segregation for African American cowboys than there was for many other Black Americans at that time, Black cowboys and of other Black people who lived in the pioneer American West did experience some discriminatory treatment.

For more on that subject, see this excerpt from this online article:

..."The two best general works on African American cowboys, however, explode the myth that there were no (or almost no) blacks on the western ranches, ranges, and cattle trails. In 1965 two University of California at Los Angeles English professors, Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones, published a book called The Negro Cowboys. They estimated that there were at least five thousand black cowhands in the late nineteenth-century American West. Four years later, University of Oregon history professor, Kenneth Wiggins Porter, argued that the number was closer to eight thousand or nine thousand--about 25 per cent--of the 35,000 or so cowboys who worked in the frontier cattle industry. (6)

Moreover, Porter argued that the conditions black cowboys experienced on western ranches and cattle drives were--from economic and social standpoints--much better than those of blacks in the South. He wrote that "[d]uring the halcyon days of the cattle range, Negroes there frequently enjoyed greater opportunities for a dignified life than anywhere else in the United States.... The skilled and handy Negro probably had a more enjoyable, if a rougher, existence as a cowhand then [sic] he would have had as a sharecropper or laborer in the South. Certainly, however, racial discrimination occurred on the cattle frontier. Blacks could not stay in white hotels, eat in white restaurants, or patronize white prostitutes. Blacks were almost required to avoid trouble with whites because prejudice might lead to more violent confrontations than would be the case if race were not a factor. Moreover, blacks were rarely promoted to the exalted position of trail boss. .Nevertheless, wages for blacks and whites were generally equal, the two groups of cowhands shared bunkhouses, and they worked and ate side-by-side. (7)

Other authors also have maintained that there was little prejudice among cowboys because ranch and trail crews stuck together. And, certainly, it was often the case that blacks and whites worked together in the western cattle industry. White cowboys would often defend their black co-workers from other whites who tried to start trouble. Because most cattle herds rarely exceeded twenty-five hundred in number, only a few drovers were needed to get them to market. According to Durham and Jones, "an average crew contained about eleven men: the trail boss, eight cowboys, a wrangler, and a cook." The boss was almost always white, but two or three of the cowboys, the wrangler, and the cook might typically be black. A few blacks, however, did become ranch and trail bosses. Moreover, several African American cowboys--whether bosses or not--have become fairly well known to historians of the subject. (8)

African American cowboys on the western frontier
Negro History Bulletin , Jan-Dec, 2001   by Roger D. Hardaway

[Italics added by me for emphasis]


For those interested in reading more about this subject, see this online listing of books from Black Pioneers, Settlers, Cowboys and Outlaws

"During the western migration, during the period we call the "Wild West", 1 in 3 cowboys was either Black or Mexican. Hollywood seems to have left a third of the cowboy population out of its hundreds of cowboy movies. Maybe they just didn't know better.
Most of the information here is from the wonderful book, "The Black West" by William Loren Katz, published in 1987 by Ethrac Publications, Inc.

Other souces of information about Black cowboys and settlers are, "Black California, The History of African-Americans in the Golden State", by B. Gordon Wheeler, and "The Negro in American History" series by Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation.

A great book about Black cowboys is "The Negro Cowboy" by Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones. It has great stories, photographs, maps and illustrations as well as an extensive bibliography.

This is not a comprehensive listing, but represents some of the most colorful and obscure Black men and women who helped tame "The Wild West".

By the way, if you're in Colorado or planning a trip there, stop by the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center in Denver."


That website also has short biographical notes on various famous Black cowboys, settlers, pioneers, and outlaws.

30 Jan 09 - 06:28 PM (#2553274)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Frank, thanks for your comment, though I confess that I don't understand what you mean by "phenotypical aspects of African-American music", and "The facial construction of singers make a difference in vocal quality and tone production."

Because I know too little about this subject, I'm not sure if I agree with you or not. On the face of it {no pun intended}, I'm prone to agree with Alan Lomax's position that the music is cultural. But then again, not knowing what you mean, I'm not sure if the truth is one or the other, or both of these positions.

I'm sure that other people besides me would be interested in you posting more on this subject.


I want to give a shout out to TinDor for refreshing this thread that I had forgotten about. Thanks!

This thread was started before YouTube videos exploded on the scene. It's hard to imagine a time when there was no YouTube. I think that this thread would be enriched by links to any videos of African American secular songs from slavery or the late 19th century or early 20th century.

I'm going to look for such songs and post their links.

Of course, people are still welcome to post any comments or song lyrics in this thread.

30 Jan 09 - 06:43 PM (#2553281)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Megan L

Sound requires something to creat a vibration and a soundbox to amplify that vibration to an audible level. Therefore in a fiddle the strings vibrate and the soundbox(Body of the fiddle amplifies the sound. The length and thickness of the strings determine the vibration and the shape and size of the soundbox effect the amplification and to a degree the tone of the produced sound, A fiddle may be roughly the same shape as a Cello but the sound is vastly different.

In the human instrument i.e. voice the vibrations are produced by the the two membranes of the voicebox and the amplification and tone by the oral cavity. Therefore the shape and bone structure of any human or particular group of humans will create slightly different sound patterns.

30 Jan 09 - 07:30 PM (#2553307)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Thanks for that explanation, Megan.

Because of my sociological background, I'm prone to credit history and cultural socialization for reasons why African American music is as it is -with "history" starting in Africa.

I admit to having a very negative visceral [excuse the pun] reaction to theories that body type have something to do with intellect. So to think that body types have something to do with how a group of people as diverse as African Americans sing...If I correctly understand what is being said, and admitting that I just don't know enough about the subject, my initial reaction is to give that theory two thumbs down.

30 Jan 09 - 08:03 PM (#2553316)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Here is a gem of a YouTube video, 90 year old Elizabeth Cotton being interviewed by "Shetland Fiddler Aly Bain, from his 1985 Series Down Home."

Re: Elizabeth Cotten - Freight Train

7:05 minutes; posted by crtUK on September 03, 2007


At .36-1:32, Elizabeth Cotton plays a banjo and sings a song the song "Georgy Buck" {or is she saying Georgian Buck?}

Here's my transcription of that song {which is subject to error}

Oh Georgy Buck
Oh Georgy Buck
Oh Georgia Buck
Say it so.

Georgy bumped his head.
Last words he said
Didn't want no shortnin' in his bread.

They put shortnin' in his bread.
It went swimmin' in his head.

[banjo chords]


At 3:44, the interviewer says to Ms. Cotton "You wrote one of the most fanous folk songs of all times".* Ms. Cotton then talks about how she came to write that song. She then plays her guitar and sings her composition "Freight Train".

I'll end this post as I started it. This is an absolute gem of a video.

* Of course, some people will say that if the composer of a song is known, then its not a folk song. But that's a battle for a thousand other Mudcat threads, and hopefully not this one.

30 Jan 09 - 08:12 PM (#2553320)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Here's another gem of a video, though I'm not going to try to transcribe the singing and the spoken word the main singer intermixes with it:

Whistler's Jug Band - Foldin' Bed (May 25, 1930)

"Louisville, KY
Tear It Down, Bed Slats and All"

2:37; posted by peglegsam on December 30, 2006

This video may not actually fit the category of this thread, but it's just too historically important not to be included on some Mudcat folk & blues discussion thread.

Here are some viewers' comments about this video:

paulvernon100 (2 years ago) "an absolute classic; arguably the earliest rural blues-based footage"

seldenkid (1 year ago) "This is a gem of a video thanks to You tube we go back in to time Now thats what I call a great band"

palindromei (1 year ago) "crazy to imagine that jug band music was one of the most popular styles of music in the urban south in the late 20s and early 30s."

luvureally (4 months ago) "I am Black American and I do not find anything offensive about this. Because for one it is not staged for the amusement of a white audience - overalls, dusty brogans, "skinnin & grinnin", contrived buck dancing. Well dressed just as most Black men of the era would have been if being photographed or filmed. Just like the photos I have of my grandfather & great-grandfather. They seem to be presenting their music on their own terms."

30 Jan 09 - 10:51 PM (#2553410)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

More digression-
Our mental picture of the cowboy tends to concentrate on the period of the great cattle drives, 1870s, when cattle had to be taken long distances to a railhead, or to the Dakotas to feed corraled Indians after the buffalo essentially were exterminated.
Durham and Jones are correct that the roster on trail drives was small. The trail boss, wrangler, coosie (cocinero), and a few cowboys, some with experience, some not. The crew was white, the cook black, Mexican or white (There were a few exceptions, one is discussed below).
Abilene KS was a loading point; its population was small, serving the yards for the cattle and the crews who brought them to town and the few farmers in the area; reportedly it had a few African-Americans in the holding yards, but I have not been able to verify this.

One of the few Black cowboys on drives to North Dakota and Montana was John Ware, who settled across the border in Alberta. He had worked on ranches, joined trail drives, and eventually settled as a ranchhand on a large holding. Large (6'3"), athletic and self-contained, he came to be accepted by the predominantly Scotch, English and American ranchers who came to this new ranching area which was opening up. He was respected as a hard worker and a good cattleman, and the best broncbuster in the region. Some notes referred to him as Nigger John Ware, but this was typical of the time, when the Encyclopedia Britannica (see 1911 ed.) pointed out physical and mental differences between Negroes and other races, characterizing them as inferior, prone to fights, but with much musical ability.
Ware worked for a spell on two of the large ranches before he was able to buy his own place. His brand, 9999, reportedly stemmed from his age of 9 years when the slaves were emancipated, and he considered it his lucky number. A small bull trout breeder stream which runs through his property, now called Wareabouts by its present owners, bears the name Ware Creek. He is one of the "Fifty Mighty Men" in a book on Albertans by Grant McEwan.
A few other African-Americans were coming to the Canadian prairie; he married the daughter of a carpenter who had settled in Calgary. He later was able to buy a larger spread on the Red Deer River.

On large ranches, conditions were quite different. Texas ranches like the Kennedy have many Mexican-American famillies, some of whom represent the third generation or so living on the ranch. Tex-Mex music is often heard.
I don't have any statistics, but I am sure that some African-American families are equally long-term.

Small ranches are quite different. Typically in Alberta, several will join together at branding times, or on moves from high to lower pastures. Entire families (and sometimes friends and relatives from town) take part in the drives, and in the branding, immunization and castration of calves, and the party that follows. Usually the ranch with good facilities and location is selected, and kitchen duties and liquor costs shared. Two ropers at least are essential to keep the calves coming to where the work is done, and two teams to do the fixin'. Never heard a genyouwine folk song, secular or other, sung at these events, but some country wannabe generally brings a guitar.

30 Jan 09 - 11:34 PM (#2553427)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: wysiwyg

Regarding discrimination, yes, I am sure there was quite a lot. However my comment was about cultural diffusion throughout the cowboy population and the music exchanges around campfires that surely occurred in "mixed-race" cowboy crews. And that therefore a number of the DT and posted songs listed as cowboy songs may also be AA songs.

I'm suggesting that cowboy may be cowboy may be cowboy.


31 Jan 09 - 03:31 AM (#2553469)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Megan L

Please Azizi stop refering to Africa as though it was one homgenuous lump of country. It is a continent with many countries and many wonderfully varied peoples living there. I get so sick of people stereotyping others.

31 Jan 09 - 03:57 AM (#2553483)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: meself

Continuing with Q's thread drift, here's more info. on John Ware, as well the Black communities in Alberta:

31 Jan 09 - 06:26 AM (#2553537)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Megan, I appreciate the fact that your comment emphasizes the point that Africa is a huge continent.

I'm surprised that you appear to think that I think otherwise. I am also surprised that you appear to think that my statements on this thread or elsewhere in this forum indicate that I have applied or that I apply stereotypes to Africa or African people.

Because few African Americans know which ethnic group/s and which nation/s our African ancestors came from, those African Americans who have embraced our connection to mother Africa, tend to speak in generalities about Africa. We {that is to say, in my opinion, many afrocentric African Americans {afrocentric here meaning those who are interested in African history and cultures} tend to embrace and to claim as their own all the positive traditional African culturally indices that we become aware of. For example, in the late 1960s and early 1970s {the decades of the flowering-or the reflowering-of the 20th century Afrocentric in the USA}, the Egyptian ankh was highly favored by Afro-centric African Americans. In those decades, that Egyptian symbol of life became a symbol for a number of African Americans and other people of the African Diaspora of African cultural awareness. Not only was the ankh used in necklaces pendents, earrings, and rings {worn by both Black people and non-Black people}, but often the ankh was used as logos for many African American cultural organizations. The ankh symbol is still being used by African Americans to symbolize our connection to the continent of Africa and not necessarily the ancient country of Egypt, and even less so the modern nation of Egypt.

To cite a few other examples of African Americans claiming a patchwork quilt of African cultural artifacts and customs as the way we identify with our African heritage-

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Maulana Ron Karenga used Swahili words rather than Wolof or Ibo words for Kwanzaa, the African American holiday that he created. And a number of African Americans {such as me} either selected or were given KiSwahili personal names, and not names from West African languages {though some African Americans did select or were given Akan or Yoruba personal name}* Note that by changing our names to Swahili names, we weren't particularly claiming any East African or East Central African descent. Instead we were celebrating the fact that we were of some African descent.*

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, many Afrocentric African Americans became aware of traditional African music through the albums of Babatunde Olatunji. Some afrocentric African American men wore dashikis which were based on the Yoruba men's dansiki, and some afrocentric African American women wore Yoruba and/Senegalese clothing. As a member of the cultural nationalist group based in Newark, New Jersey in 1967-1969, I recall that in the same conversation, we might use the Swahili word "harambee" {all pull together}, the Swahili word "asante" {thank you}, and the Zulu word "yebo" {yes}.

And by at least the early 1990s, Akan kente cloth from parts of Ghana and Cote d'lvoire, West Africa and adinkra symbols from these same people, particularly sankofa had overtaken the Egyptian ankh as the preferred symbols of Black Americans' connection with mother Africa.

Of course, this is a greatly abbreviated overview of how African Americans have selected various indices of African heritage to express our "Africanness". This overview fails to adequately discuss African Americans' interest in ancient Ethiopian culture & its cultural artifacts, and does not mention the connection between the Ethiopian cultures and the Rastafarian religion and lifestyle, and music {though this is based in Jamaica, there are many African Americans of Jamaican ancestry}. Furthermore, this overview does not discuss the conversion that some contemporary African Americans have made to the "traditional" Yoruba/Benin religions. And this overview doesn't discuss Black Americans' interest in ancient Malian culture and the meaning to us of our use of one of Mali's cultural artifacts, mud cloth (bogolanfini) fabric.

This brief comment also does not adequately discuss African Americans' symbolic association with such historical figures as Egyptian pharoah Akenaton, Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, South African King Shaka Zulu, and Angolan Queen Nzinga. Furthermore, this comment doesn't discuss the African Americans' embrace of many types of African musical instruments, but particularly since the 1990s, the djembe drum. Indeed, as soon as I submit this post, I'm sure I'll think of other ways in which the cultural diversity of the African continent is reflected in contemporary African Americans embrace of different cultural indices from that continent.

If it were possible for us to know which African ethnic group/s we descended from, we may not have has such a transcultural embrace of Africa. But, for the record. when I talk about Africa on this forum and elsewhere, I mean all of this-and more.

*I believe African Americans' during those times relative familiarity with Swahili names in contrast with our relative unfamiliarity with Ibo, Yoruba, Wolof, Lingala, and other West African languages, and the relative ease in pronouncing Swahili names, were high among the reasons why so many African Americans resonanted to Swahili perrsonal names for themselves and/or for their children.

31 Jan 09 - 06:53 AM (#2553547)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

Continuing with this particular digression, let me correct this one admittedly convoluted sentence: the late 1960s and early 1970s {the decades of the flowering-or the reflowering-of the 20th century afrocentricity in the USA}...

For some, "afrocentricity" is a way of approaching history and/or it has a political meaning. See for example .

However, for me, and I believe for a great many African Americans and other people of the African Diaspora, what being afrocentric means is acknowledging the relevance of African cultures to the group identity of peoples of African descent and expressing our knowledge and appreciation of African cultures through our choices of clothing, our home deccoration such as our purchase of artwork and decor, our choices of symbols, personal names, group names for our cultural or community organizations, our collection or playing of African musical instruments, our telling African folk tales, our knowledge of African proverbs, our use of African hair styles, our use of African scenes and African symbols on gift bags, greeting cards, wedding invitations etc. etc. etc.

See for example, for those who are interested, see my choice of one of the adinkra symbols as my symbol on my Myspace page:

{If you care to take the time looking through my page of friends' photographs}, you will note how many Black people have chosen afrocentric symbols, including the red, black, and green colors that are said to represent African Americans, or the green, gold, and black that are represent Ethiopia and other African countries and cultures such as the Rastafarians}.

For all those who think this is an indirect way for me to promote my Myspace page-well you're at least partly right.


31 Jan 09 - 07:01 AM (#2553551)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

To return to the stated subject of this thread, here are links to two YouTube videos of African American secular folk songs:

All the Pretty Little Horses Lullaby -Kathleen Battle

posted by Paideia360 on January 23, 2009

Lyrics to this song are provided in the video's summary.


Hush Little Baby -Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin

posted by skicnik on December 12, 2007

Lyrics to this song are provided in the video's summary.

31 Jan 09 - 07:21 AM (#2553559)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

I apologize for the numerous typographical,grammatical, and content errors in my recent (and my not so recent) posts to this thread.

For example, "the Maulana Ron Karenga" should be Maulana Ron Karenga.

And the corrected form of this sentence is "you will note how many Black people have chosen afrocentric symbols including the red, black, and green colors that are said to represent African Americans, or the green, gold, and red that represent Ethiopia and some other African countries and cultures such as the Rastafarians".


From now on, I'll try to be more careful in my postings.

31 Jan 09 - 07:25 AM (#2553563)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Azizi

To return to the subject of this thread, here's another video link:

Sweet Honey In The Rock - Sylvie - 1990 – Sydney

posted by marksydow on May 29, 2008

31 Jan 09 - 01:37 PM (#2553798)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

"Blacks in Deep Snow," Colin A. Thomson, tells the story of Black settlement and pioneering in Canada. The first slave of record was sold in 1628 in Montreal.The first large group were slaves brought to Canada by United Empire Loyalists at the time of the American Revolution. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1833.
Segregation, legally separate schools in some areas and discrimiation remained strong, however, until after WW2. The KKK was prominent, especially on the prairies, in the 1920s-1930s. One of their meetings in the small town of Moosejaw drew 8000. Crowds at meetings in Calgary are shown in photogrphs taken at the time. Family papers in provincial archives often include KKK membership cards.

Adding to the Ware story, his wife was from the first Black family, Lewis, to settle in what is now Alberta. His first holding, west of Millerville, is still a pretty area of mountains, foothills and small fields, but has become popular with Calgarians who like a more 'country' lifestyle. His old holding partially has been carved into 1/4 section home sites (only 40 minutes from the City).

21 Oct 09 - 05:35 AM (#2749264)
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs
From: sian, west wales

Just received this information on the V&A Museum Black Heritage Season which may be of interest.