Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

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Ocean from American shores. A year before the English colonists landed on Plymouth Rock negroes were sold into servitude in Virginia. When the first census of the United States was taken in 1790, there were 757,208 negroes in the country. There are now 10,000,000. These people all speak the language of America. They are native born. Their songs, a matter of real moment in the controversy, are sung in the language of America (albeit in a corrupt dialect), and as much entitled to be called American songs as would be the songs, were there any such, created here by any other element of our population. They may not give voice to the feelings of the entire population of the country, but for a song which shall do that we shall have to wait until the amalgamation of the inhabitants of the United States is complete. Will such a time ever come ? Perhaps so; but it will be after the people of the world cease swarming as they have swarmed from the birth of history till now. There was a travelled road from Meso­potamia to the Pillars of Hercules in the time of Abraham. The women of Myksene wore beads of amber brought from the German Ocean, when
"Ilion, like a mist, rose into towers."
The folksongs of Suabia, Bavaria, the Rhineland, Fran-conia—of all the German countries, principalities and provinces—are German folksongs; the songs of the German apprentices, soldiers, huntsmen, clerks, journeymen—giving voice to the experiences and feelings of each group—are all German folksongs. Why are not the songs of the American negroes American folksongs? Can any one say?,/ It is deplorable that so pessimistic a note should sound through the writings of any popular champion as sounds through the most eloquent English book ever written by any one of African blood; but no one shall read Burghardt DuBois's "The Souls of Black Folk" without being moved by the pathos of his painful cry:
Your country? How came it yours? Before the Pilgrims landed we were here. Here we have brought our three gifts and mingled them with yours— a gift of story and song, soft, stirring melody in an ill harmonized and un-melodious land; the gift of sweat and brawn to beat back the wilderness, conquer the soil and lay the foundations of this vast economic empire two
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