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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13°
NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
Once having left that age of gold, —with what shortsighted jo3r in growing-up! — we can look on childhood only from the leaden years of maturity, can know only vicariously its mystical delights through the experience of other children.
Perhaps another reason for the difficulty in capturing these same songs now — apart from the self-conscious secrecy of childhood in general, and the racial reticence of Negroes — is the fact that game-songs are not sung as much by any children now as formerly; for children, like their elders, at present incline to take their music from phonograph records and the radio, and are slipping away from the great body of unwritten folk-song. They crave the novel, and they are losing their birth-right of racial song. Nothing in juvenile en­tertainment can quite take the place of the old ring-games, with their nonsensical tunes. A child who has never sung hilariously while he danced or skipped through some old, fantastic game has been cheated of some inalienable, right, and should seek redress from society.
One day, a year or so ago, while I was enjoying a solitary horse­back ride in a country district near Richmond, Virginia, I came into what is called Zion Town, a Negro settlement. A little group of children were circling about in a ring, holding hands. Inside the ring a plump pickaninny was squatting on the ground, while a slightly larger girl poked him vigorously with a stick. The ring skipped about, chanting merrily, and I reined my horse in and sat there to watch and listen.
Frog in the middle
And can't get out. Take a stick
And punch him out.
As the stanza ended, "Froggy," impelled by a prodigious prod, hopped lurchily out of the ring and someone else took his place. Memory flashed back scenes of my own early years when I had played that game myself. If I had not been afraid of breaking in on the fun, I should have got down off my horse and begged for the chance to be "Frog" once more. But I knew I should be regarded as an alien, and so I chirruped to Rob Roy and rode on.
Negro children on the plantations before the war had many of their own ring-games and songs, some of which have come down to us. Those youngsters, untroubled by school and too small to work, had command of their own time and enjoyed a free childhood that juveniles now might well envy.







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III