V
SOCIAL SONGS: NARRATIVE SONGS
AND BALLADS

THE songs in this group constitute a rather curious and decidedly mixed exhibit. Any reader only casually acquainted with Negro songs might say of many of them that they are not Negro songs at all. In a sense he would be right; there are hardly ten songs out of the thirty-seven that I should venture to pronounce genuine Negro folk-songs in both their origin and their present nature. Seventeen of these songs1 I feel sure are, either mainly or in part, of "ballet"2 or vaudeville origin; it is often impossible to say which. Six of them3 are at least partly derived from the ante-bellum minstrel songs. Six4 are partly based on early songs of the white people; the first on "Mary had a Little Lamb," the second on the "Derby Ram," the third on two lines common in white folk-songs, the fourth on "The Fifty Cents," the fifth on an old jig song of the white people, and the sixth on a folk-song of the whites in print as early as 1580. Numbers 30 and 32 are apparently nothing more than inaccurate versions of poems that had appeared in print some years before the songs were reported.

Yet these songs are almost all in common circulation among the Negroes. Many of them have been printed in other collections, either entire or in part, as heard sung by Negroes; and many that have not are so much like others that have, that it would seem unwise to exclude them from the collection. Of course, the Negroes sing many of the same songs that white people sing, from regular hymns to the latest musical comedy hits, without anyone venturing to call such songs Negro folk-songs; but when they preserve songs

____________________
1
Nos. 2 A, 8 A - F, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 33, 35, 36.
2
The term "ballet" as used by both white and Negro folk-singers is a corruption of "ballad." In the usage of mountain whites it often applies to traditional English popular ballads, but in Negro usage it signifies songs of individual authorship printed on single sheets, like the English broadside ballads, and hawked about by the composer.
3
Nos. 4, 7, 12, 20, 21, 26.
4
Nos. 13, 14, 20, 27, 28, 31.

-185-

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American Negro Folk-Songs
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Foreword v
  • Preface xxi
  • Contents xxv
  • I The Negro Song in General 3
  • II Religious Songs 31
  • III Upstart Crows -- The Reaction From Religion 130
  • IV Social Songs -- Dance and Banjo 148
  • V Social Songs: Narrative Songs and Ballads 185
  • VI Songs About Animals 224
  • VII Work Songs--Gang Laborers 250
  • VIII Rural Labor 281
  • IX General and Miscellaneous Labor 290
  • X Songs About Women 311
  • XI Recent Events 341
  • XII The Seamier Side 356
  • XIII Race-Consciousness 376
  • XIV Blues and Miscellaneous Songs 387
  • APPENDICES 403
  • Bibliography 467
  • INDICES 481
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