Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

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THE COMPOSER
115
schools. The agitation reached a climax recently in Boston, where a book of "Forty Best Songs," compiled for school use, was withdrawn by the Boston School Committee because it contained seven songs by Stephen Foster in which occurred the words "nigger," "darky," and "Massa." It was claimed by the protesting negroes that these words were used as epithets and as terms of reproach, and that their children were jeered at unmerci­fully as a result of singing the songs. The Pastor of the First African M. E. Church of Boston declared that "The songs 'Old Black Joe,' 'My Old Kentucky Home,' and 'Massa's in the Cold, Cold, Ground,' are an insult to the whole colored race." The School Committee agreed to withdraw the book, but their action was severely criti­cised throughout the country and brought about a dis­cussion of the whole subject of Foster's songs which demonstrated how wide-spread is their popularity and how deep the affection in which they are held.
There may be some cause for complaint against the perpetuation of such a song as "Oh Susanna," in which the negro appears only as a buffoon, a song typifying an attitude toward the negro which has long since died out, but it is difficult to understand how the singing of such songs as "Old Black Joe" and "My Old Kentucky Home" can humiliate the colored race. On the con­trary, it would seem that these songs are a distinct tribute to the colored race, being among the permanent contributions to American literature inspired by the negro, comparable to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "Uncle Remus." Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the negro poet, makes frequent use of the objectionable words. It is impossible to eliminate from history the story of the Civil War, nor should the younger negroes be allowed to grow up in ignorance of the fact that to secure their freedom the white people of the North fought for four years, gave freely of their lives and treasure, and with their hearts' blood won for the negroes the blessings of life, liberty and







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