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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Greg B Black Virginian Chantey Group (8) RE: Black Virginian Chantey Group 24 Feb 12

Remember, the African American groups we're talking about are themselves primary and secondary resources. Any such thing in the way of black deepwater sailors probably died before Stan Hugill reached middle age.

At best, deepwater African-American (and by "American" I'm going to include the islands of the Caribbean) are probably filtered by collectors such as Hugill. Stan mentions at least one black man as a primary resource for him, but that was probably well over 50 years ago at this point.

Perhaps some of the inshore guys who perform inshore work songs now are the grandsons or great-grandsons of blue water sailors.

But you have to figure that when the deepwater sailoring profession went away, those African American sailors came ashore and did something else.

Lots of other factors, including socio-economic, probably mitigated against their songs being preserved in original form. Illiteracy, short life-expectancy (meaning they're more generations removed), a general lack of interest in things in black history and culture by academia, and just plain being too busy scraping out a living to think too much about grandpa's old songs must all be factors.

Of course, you can hear the black influence in some of "our" songs. "Johnny Come Down to Hilo," "Hogeye Man," "Stowin' Sugar in the Hold Below," and "Old Moke Pickin' on a Banjo" come to mind.

As Hugill points out, segregation before the mast wasn't the norm. So if you want to hear the results of African American involvement in the making of deepwater chanties, just listen to the ones we have in hand. It's there.

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