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"White folks I'll sing for you." Song "My Brudder Gum."—Stephen Foster
S TEPHEN FOSTER'S early association with theatrical minstrelsy was an exceedingly important factor in his life, for out of it grew some of his greatest songs. He took the minstrel portrayal of the negro as a loud and flashy individual and replaced it with the kindly and devoted darky typified by Old Black Joe. He took the tawdry medium of minstrel music and transformed it into a sincere expression of the human heart so that "Old Folks at Home" embodies a universal longing.
From his boyhood days in Pittsburgh Stephen had been attracted to the stage. His brother Morrison relates how a group of neighborhood boys fitted up a theater in a carriage house, with Stephen as "a star performer" in singing "Coal-Black Rose/' "Jim Crow" and other "Ethiopian Songs," as they were then termed. With the proceeds of their shows the boys would "buy tickets to the old Pittsburgh Theater on Saturday nights, where they could be seen in the pit listening to the