|Share page||Visit Us On FB|
ject. So-called negro songs are more than a century old in the music-rooms of America. A song descriptive of the battle of Plattsburg was sung in a drama to words supposedly in negro dialect, as long ago as 1815. "Jump Jim Crow" was caught by Thomas D. ("Daddy") Rice from the singing and dancing of an old, deformed and decrepit negro slave in Louisville eighty-five years ago (if the best evidence obtainable on the subject is to be believed), and this was the starting-point of negro minstrelsy of the Christy type. "Dandy Jim of Caroline" may also have had a negro origin; I do not know, and the question is inconsequential here for the reason that the Afro-American folksongs which I am trying to study owe absolutely nothing to the songs which the stage impersonators of the negro slave made popular in the United States and England. They belong to an entirely different order of creations. Forgone thing, they are predominantly religious songs; it is a singular fact that very few secular songs—those which are referred to as "reel tunes," "fiddle songs," "corn songs" and "devil songs," for which the slaves generally expressed a deep abhorrence, though many of them, no doubt, were used to stimulate them while at work in the fields—have been preserved, while "shout songs" and other "speritchils" (spirituals—"ballets" they were called at a later day) have been kept alive by the hundreds. The explanation of the phenomenon is psychological.
There are a few other resemblances which may be looked into. "Who is on the Lord's side?"1 may have suggested the notion of "military calls" to Dr. Wallaschek. "In Bright Mansions Above"2 contains a phrase which may have been inspired by "The Wearing of the Green." A palpable likeness to "Camptown Races" exists in "Lord, Remember Me."8 Stephen C. Foster wrote "Camp-town Races" in 1850; the book called "Slave Songs of the United States" was published in 1867, but the songs were collected several years before. I have no desire to rob
• "Slave Songs," No. 75.
• No. 78 of the Fisk Jubilee Collection
• No. 7 in "Slave Songs"
[ 16 ]