XI
RECENT EVENTS

THE songs in which the folk Negro takes note of the larger world by which he is surrounded are sung in the fields, in the kitchen, in the section gang, on the streets, and in minstrel shows. Few of them in their present state are of any great age, since they could hardly anticipate the events by which they were inspired. They are related, of course, to some of the songs classified under Narrative Songs, when the songs in that group have to do with actual occurrences. This group deals only with those events of national or general significance, but there are numerous songs all over the South which deal with events of only local significance. The well-known ballad on the wreck of the Southern train No. 97 is an example of these. Some years ago Dr. Frank C. Brown found such a ballad growing up among the Negro workers in the "Bull Durham" tobacco factory in Durham, shortly after the wreck of a Negro excursion train.

Trivial comment upon the events of the day has always characterized Negro song. It is true of many of the songs quoted by travellers in Africa, of the songs heard by travellers and novelists who occasionally recorded ante-bellum songs, and of the ante-bellum minstrel songs, which, while generally not really Negro songs, pretended to be, and did influence later songs of the Negro. These songs seldom have enough weight to outlast the interest in the event by which they were provoked. If there were ever many genuinely Negro songs inspired by even so weighty an event as emancipation, I have failed to find a single one in oral tradition to-day.

Within the last twenty years the events which have most impressed the Negro folk-singer's imagination have been the sinking of the Titanic, the advent of the boll weevil, the spurious discovery of the North Pole (strangely, the authentic discovery moved him not), and the World War. The great Northern migration of Negroes in 1917-1918 about which Southern editors grew so excited seems to have left little record in Negro song, the only echo in this collection being IX, no. 53, in which the singer seems to proclaim his disillusion with Hackensack, New Jersey -- even though the Yankees did

-341-

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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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