American Folksongs of Protest

By John Greenway | Go to book overview

Preface

The songs of the working people have always been their sharpest statement, and the one statement that cannot be destroyed. You can burn books, buy newspapers, you can guard against handbills and pamphlets, but you cannot prevent singing.

For some reason it has always been lightly thought that singing people are happy people. Nothing could be more untrue. The greatest and most enduring songs are wrung from unhappy people-the spirituals of the slaves which say in effect -- "It is hopeless here, maybe in heaven it will be better."

Songs are the statement of a people. You can learn more about people by listening to their songs than any other way, for into the songs go all the hopes and hurts, the angers, fears, the wants and aspirations.

-- JOHN STEINBECK.

From the earliest periods of American history the oppressed people forming the broad base of the social and economic pyramid have been singing of their discontent. What they have said has not always been pleasant, but it has always been worth listening to, if only as the expression of a people whose pride and expectation of a better life have traditionally been considered attributes of the American nation. Yet the more literate persons to whom the songs of protest have frequently been directed have stopped their ears, allowing many worth-while and often noble songs to vanish with the memories of the folk who made them.

-vii-

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American Folksongs of Protest
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • To Ruth v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1. an Historical Survey 21
  • 2. Negro Songs of Protest 67
  • 3. the Songs of the Textile Workers 121
  • 4. Songs of the Miners 147
  • 5. the Migratory Workers 173
  • 6. Songs of the Farmers 209
  • 7. a Labor Miscellany 225
  • 8. the Song-Makers 243
  • Appendix 311
  • Bibliography 329
  • List of Composers 339
  • List of Songs and Ballads 341
  • Index 345
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