ON THE TRAIL OF NEGRO FOLK-SONGS

A Collection Of Negro Traditional & Folk Songs with Sheet Music Lyrics & Commentaries - online book

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22                             NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
MAMAN DONNE MOIN UN PITIT MARI
A friend of mine on the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nash­ville, Tennessee, took me to see the venerable Dr. Boyd, head of the Baptist Publication Society for the colored people. Dr. Boyd, who was eighty years old, remembers much of interest concerning the old songs and the life in the South before the war. He said that he did not know the secular songs, the reels and dance-songs, because in his youth where he lived it was thought unpardonable to pick a banjo, and the person who did so was put out of the church. His mother left the church "because of an organ." He said that for a long time the religious songs of the Negroes almost died out, but a few people loved them and kept on singing them, till college people got to ad­mitting that there was more music in them than in other songs. Then Fisk University took up the jubilee singing, and gradually the spiritual came back into its own place among the colored people. He said, "You can break loose with an old spiritual in a meeting and move the church."
Years ago Dr. Boyd arranged for the collecting and publishing of many of the old spirituals in a book which his publishing house brought out. Singers who could sing but did not write music went travelling through the South to learn the songs and fix them in their memory; and when they came back, a musician took down the tunes and wrote them out.
Dr. Boyd told me incidents of the history of various songs. For example, he said of the familiar old spiritual, Steal Away, that It was sung in slavery times when the Negroes on a few plantations