Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

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AFRO-AMERICAN FOLKSONGS
My dream was fulfilled, and I had traced out not the poem alone, but the poet. I implored him to proceed.
"Once we boys went for tote some rice, and de nigger driver, he keep a-callin' on us: and I say, 'O, de ole nigger driver!" Den anudder said, 'Fust t'ing my mammy tole me was not'in' so bad as a nigger driver.' Den I made a sing, just puttin' a word and den anudder word."
Then he began singing and the men, after listening a moment, joined in the chorus as if it were an old acquaintance, though they evidently had never heard it before. I saw how easily a new "sing" took root among them. "O. de ole nigger driver!
O, gwine away! Fust t'ing my mammy tell me.
0, gwine away! Tell me 'bout de nigger driver,
O, gwine away! Nigger driver second devil,
O, gwine awayl Best ring for do he driver, '            0, gwfne away!
5-nbck he down and spoil he labor— 0, gwine awayl
A similar story, which also throws light on the emanci-pation songs which 'I have printed, was told by J. Miller McKim in an address delivered in Philadelphia on July 9, 1862:
I asked one of these blacks, one of the most intelligent of them, where they got these songs.
"Dey make 'em, sah."
"How do they make them?"
After a pause, evidently casting about for an explanation, he said:
"I'll tell you; it's dis way: My master call me up an' order me a short peck of corn and a hundred lash. My friends see it and is sorry for me. When dey come to de praise meeting dat night dey sing about it. Some's very good singers and know how; and dey work it in, work it in, you know, till dey get it right; and dat's de way."
"In ancient Rome sick slaves were exposed on the island of Aesculapius, in the Tiber; by a decree of Claudius slaves so exposed could not be reclaimed by their master."— (Encyclopaedia Britannica, art. "Slavery.")
An incident which gave rise in Jamaica to a folksong, which is a remarkably fine example of dramatic directness and forcefulness, but of which, most unfortunately, the music has not been preserved, recalls this ancient regu­lation. Here is the song:
"Take him to the gully! Take him to the gully, But bringee back the frock and the board." "O massa, massa! Me no deadee yet!" "Take him to the gully! Take him to the gully; Carry him along!"
How this song came into existence is thus related in
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III