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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Ferrara What was Jimmie doing? (48) RE: What was Jimmie doing? 26 Nov 07

I can't believe "Jimmy Cracked Corn" was ever a slave song! It's much more likely it was a minstrel song.

My mom (born in Georgia around 1913) told me it meant to open a jug of whiskey. I guess that's what she was told. I love the story about it being used as an "escape" song. There is no way to check these things out but I think it's important to document any oral history so people can draw their own conclusions as to what a song really meant. The thing is though, as I say, my own conclusion is that it was originally a minstrel song.

About Year of Jubilo, and other songs that use the word darky or darkies, my 2 cents is that it's a word that can be used in an appropriate setting only. For example, Rhiannon Giddens used the N-word in her class on 19th Century Black String Band Music at Augusta Heritage Center. Absolutely appropriate in that context. Also at re-enactments.

Absolutely inappropriate IMO to use it in a public concert or songbook in this day and age. I know someone who sings "the slaves they stay" rather than "the darkies stay" in Year of Jubilo. I can't see anything wrong with that substitution and lots that is right. I sing "My Old Kentucky Home" and have spent a lot of time choosing substitutes for the word darky that keep the feeling and sentiment of the line intact. For example, "The time has come when the darkies have to part" becomes "The time has come when dear friends will have to part" and "wherever the darky may go" becomes "wherever the poor man may go" or "Wherever the laborer may go." The original was stronger but the word darky held so many connotations of contempt and patronizing condescension that it just isn't acceptable in a public setting IMO.

We were taught (in 1947 or so) to sing "Oh brothers how my heart grows weary" in Old Folks at Home. I sang it for a lovely group of older folks and one woman sang out with "Oh darkies ... etc." Then she clapped her hand over her mouth and said, "Oh my, that's how we learned it when I was young but it does need to be changed, doesn't it?"

Rita F

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