Afro-American Folksongs - online book

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

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seeing a young black woman on a plantation in Mississippi stripped naked, tied by the feet and hands flat upon the ground and so inhumanly flogged that she died in a few hours. That story also might well have been perpetuated in a folksong. There was sunshine as well as gloom in the life of the black slaves in the Southern colonies and States, and so we have songs which are gay as well as grave; but as a rule the finest songs are the fruits of suffering under­gone and the hope of the deliverance from bondage which was to come with translation to heaven after death. The oldest of them are the most beautiful, and many of the most striking have never yet been collected, partly because they contained elements, melodic as well as rhythmical, which baffled the ingenuity of the early collectors. Un­fortunately, trained musicians have never entered upon the field, and it is to be feared that it is now too late. The peculiarities which the collaborators on "Slave Songs of the United States" recognized, but could not imprison on the written page, were elements which would have been of especial interest to the student of art.
Is it not the merest quibble to say that these songs are not American? They were created in America under American influences and by people who are Americans in the same sense that any other element of our population is American—every element except the aboriginal. But is there an aboriginal element? Are the red men autoch­thones ? Science seems to have answered that they are not. Then they, too, are American only because they have come to live in America. They may have come from Asia. The majority of other Americans came from Europe. Is it only an African who can sojourn here without becoming an American and producing American things? Is it a matter of length of stay in the country? Scarcely that' or some negroes would have at least as good a claim on the title as the descendants of the Puritans and Pilgrims. Negroes figure in the accounts of his voyages to America made by Columbus. Their presence in the West Indies was noticed as early as 1501. Balboa was assisted by negroes in building the first ships sent into the Pacific
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III