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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NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
31
sung for him on the occasion of one of his official visits to a state-prison farm. A Negro man came up to him after supper, and said, "Will you listen while I sing you a song?" He rendered a ditty whose refrain ran as follows:
If I had the gov'ner
Where the gov'ner has me, Before daylight
I 'd set the gov'ner free.
I begs you, gov'ner,
Upon my soul: If you won't gimme a pardon,
Won't you gimme a parole?
I have received material from many sources. Teachers, preachers, plantation owners, musicians, writers — many people, white and black — have given aid in this search. I have received songs written in the trembling hand of age, and in the cramped scrawl of childhood. Hands more skilled at guiding the plough than the pen have written down old songs for me, and college professors have given me friendly help.
I have visited many institutions and heard many groups of Negroes sing — schools, colleges, churches, factories, and so forth. The girls' glee club of Straight College, New Orleans, gave a special concert for me during my stay in that town, and I greatly enjoyed their rendition of folk-songs. I attended chapel services at Fisk Uni­versity, in Nashville, and heard the whole student body sing under the leadership of Matthew Work, who has done so much to collect and preserve Negro spirituals. I have heard the fine glee clubs of Hampton and Tuskegee, the Sabbath Glee Club of Richmond, and others. I remember the thrill with which I heard the singing of a group of college singers who gave some of the old spirituals before the Southern Baptist Convention at Chattanooga, Tennessee, one spring. I recall with especial pleasure the concert given by the Sharon Band, composed of one hundred seventy-five voices, from the colored employees of the P. Lorillard Tobacco Company in Rich­mond, Virginia, a year ago, when the Negroes sang their old songs to a large audience of white and colored people. Roll, Jordan, Roll, and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, were among the numbers they gave with best effect,
I have taken advantage of every opportunity to hear folk-songs, sung either by the Negroes themselves or by white people who