Monday, February 24, 2014

Jonny Boker

This past Saturday I finished reading The Birth of the Banjo: Joel Walker Sweeney and Early Minstrelsy by Bob Carlin. This interesting book gave me an enormous amount of background information on the rise of minstrelsy to nineteenth century pop culture status. Sweeney was born in then Buckingham County (later Appomattox County), Virginia, in about 1810. Sweeney likely learned how to play crude forms of the banjo from neighboring slaves. His documented banjo career started in about 1836 with local shows in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia; often as entertainment at horse racing tracks. An overseas trip to England in the early 1840s brought additional acclaim. Sweeney's career included playing solo and with groups of other musicians. The innovator died an early death in 1860.

A number of Sweeney's most popular songs were about rural slave life and related to places the banjoist grew up around. It is unknown if he wrote these songs or if he just adapted songs he heard from slaves in the neighborhood. One of these songs "Jonny Boker" (Booker) is the one for which Sweeney is documented to have played the earliest. Here are the sheet music lyrics from 1840.

"Jonny Boker, or De Broken Yoke in De Coaling Ground"

As I went up to Lynchburg town
I broke my yoke on de coaling ground
I drove from dare to bow ling [Boiling] spring
And tried for to mend my yoke and ring

O Jonny Boker
Help dat nigger
Do Jonny Boker do

I drove from dare to Wright's ole shop
Hollered to my driver and told him to stop
Says I Mr. Wright have you got a yoke
He seized his bellows and blew up smoke


Says I Mr. Wright habat long for to stay
He cotched up his hammer knocked right away
Soon as he mended by staple and ring
Says I Mr. Wright do you charge any thing


Says he to me I neber charge
Unless de job is werry large
For little jobs dat is so small
I neber charge any thing at all


I drove from dar to Anthony's Mill
And tried to pull up dat are hill
I whipped my steers and pushed my cart
But all I could do I couldn't make a start


I put my shoulder to the wheel
Upon de ground I placed my heel
Den we make a mighty strain
But all our efforts prove in vain


Dare cum a waggoner driving by
I sat on de ground and 'gan for to cry
Says us to him some pity take
And help me up for conscience sake


Says he to me I will help thee
He tok out his horses No. 3
I wiped from my eyes the folling tears
He hitched his horses before my steers


Den to me he did much please
He pulled me up wid so much ease
His horses were so big and strong
De way dey pulled dis nigger along.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Slave Quarters in "A South-Side View of Slavery"

I just started reading A South-Side View of Slavery this morning and have already found the author commenting on the slave quarters he encountered. The author, Nehemiah Adams, a Harvard educated Congregational minister from Massachusetts, took a trip of three months for his health to Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia in 1854, and wrote a book upon his return that presented a positive view of slavery as a molder of African American behavior, especially in terms of religious enrichment.

Adams's attempt at a positive spin on slave housing is subtle but detectable.  On first reading, his claim that a settler preferred a log home in favor of a frame home seems a little disingenuous, but I suppose that if a man had become accustomed to a log home he would prefer it. And I guess that a frame home, if not properly insulated, could be less comfortable than a log home. Regardless, Adams's perspective, that of a northerner visiting the South for the first time, are intriguing.

On page 37 Adams wrote:
"Probably every notherner feels, on seeing the negro cabins, that he could make them apparently more comfortable on almost every plantation. The negroes themselves could do so, if they chose, in very many cases; but the cabins will strike every one disagreeably at first. We err in comparing them with dwellings suited to people of different habits and choice from those of the colored population of the south. A log cabin, plastered with mud, whether at the south or west, seems to a stranger a mean, pitiable place. I was, however, amused with a man in the ears, whom I overheard complaining that in building a house for his own family, in a new settlement, he was obliged to build with joists and boards, as logs were not to be had. The log cabin is cool in summer and warm in winter. An estimable man, who has been a physician and became a planter, built brick cabins for his people. They grew sick in them, and at the same time thorough ventilation, are essential to their comfort and health. Both of these are obtained together in the cabins better than in framed or brick dwellings."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cool Civil War Photograph

Unidentified Union Cavalryman with banjo and pipe.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

I'm still learning, so I am certainly no expert on banjos, but in this photograph it appears that the fifth-string on the banjo is facing down. I have noticed in the majority of period photographs that it is normally on the top of the neck. So, is this soldier right handed and holding a left-handed banjo, or is this a reverse image and he is left handed holding a right-handed banjo? Any experts out there have an opinion?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Letters to Former Masters - Edmund Delaney, Part II

As promised in the last post, here is the second letter Edmund Delaney sent to his former owner Harvey Graves. It came less than two months from his first letter, and interestingly, it further illuminates the intriguing relationship between a former enslaved individual and the man who owned him.

In his first letter Delaney indicated he was somewhat disappointed that no one from home had written to him since he enlisted. At that point it would have been almost two years without word from those back in Scott County. Still, in that first letter, Delaney's seemingly genuine care and respect for his former master comes through.  

Delaney's letters are well written.  The spelling is very good and the use of punctuation is probably better than the majority of soldiers' letters (whether black or white) that I have read. It makes me wonder if Graves educated Delaney or at least allowed him to be educated, or if Delaney had the letter written for him by someone in camp. Or, perhaps, Delaney used part of his time in the army to become educated.

"Brownsville, Texas
Aug. 9th 1866.

Mr. Harvey Graves,
Dear Sir:

Yours of July 23d was rec'd yesterday, & I was very glad to hear from you. My health is pretty good generally, though I have been a little unwell for a few days. On the whole, I am getting along well. I am always glad to hear from you or any of the rest of my friends: a letter always renews my spirit. My respect to Mr. & Mrs. Berkley, & his son John: I wish he would send me John's likeness: - My regards also to Mr. & Mrs. Kenny & family; & tell them all I was sorry to hear that Mrs. K, is in such poor health. My respects to my father in law & his wife, & tell them to write to me soon. My repects to Leeven & his family: The same to Mr. Hamilton & his family:- tell all my friends that I would be glad to see them & to hear from them: but, somehow most of them seem to be very much afraid of their pens & ink. Campbell Nutter is well, & sends his love to all his folks and friends. The time is passing rapidly away, & I shall be home, if I live, in about fifteen months at the farthest.

Please write often, & let me know how things go in Kentucky.

I hope to see the old place once more. My respect to all inquiring friends.

Yours Respectfully,
Ed. Delaney"

I cannot help but wonder if the people Delaney mentions in his letter are black or white. I assume that Delaney's father and mother in law are African American, but are Mr. & Mrs. Berkley and their son John, Mr. & Mrs. Kenny, Leevan and his family, and Mr. Hamilton and his family other African Americans on the Graves farm or neighboring farms, or are they neighboring whites? Delaney wishes for John Berkley's "likeness," meaning his photograph. Was John Berkley a fellow black soldier in a different regiment, or was he a white soldier?  Was John Berkley even a soldier? I assume that since Delaney mentions that Campbell Nutter is "well," that apparently means that Nutter is in Delaney's regiment and that Graves is familiar with the man.

Delaney's closing two sentences about wanting to "know how things go in Kentucky," and his "hope to see the old place once more," seems to say a lot about how he feels about Graves and his fondness for home, family, and friends.

As often is the case, questions just naturally come with sources like these. But regardless of what we don't know about Delaney's friends and family these letters do show just how diverse relationships between former slaves and their masters could truly be.    

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Letters to Former Masters - Edmund Delaney, Part I

Assisting a patron with some research about United States Colored Troops today I ran across a unique file. In it was the normal soldier service records, but it also contained a few rarities. 

First, one seldom finds a photograph included among a Civil War soldiers' service records. But, this one did. The soldier's name was Edmund Delaney. He served in Company E, 117th United States Colored Infantry. The 117th was raised in Kentucky and trained at Camp Nelson. They participated in the Petersburg and Appomattox campaigns before being sent to Texas after the war. 

Delaney was 25 years old when he enlisted on August 22, 1864. He had been born in Bourbon County, but was from Scott County and enlisted at Covington, Kentucky. Delaney's owner was Harvey Graves. Graves was a 57 year old wealthy farmer from Scott County.

Graves had sent in some papers that were eventually included in Delaney's service record - including the photograph that Delaney had sent him. Apparently, like many other Kentucky owners, Graves sought compensation for Delaney's service. Within Delaney's records was a claim of compensation. In this document Graves, writing about Delaney, stated that "I purchased him at private sale when he was quite a small boy and owned him at the time of his enlistment."

However, the most intriguing things in the file were two letters that Graves also included to help prove previous ownership and that Delaney had sent him while in the service.  The first letter was dated June 18, 1866, and was sent from Brownsville, Texas. Delaney's unit, like a number of other USCTs were sent to patrol the border after the Civil War.

This letter reads:

Brownsville, Texas.
June 18, 1866.

Mr. Harvey Graves
Dear Sir:
Please accept my respects & the information that I am well & doing well. I would like very much to hear how you are all doing. Give my respects to all the family: I would like very much to see you all. I think you have slighted me a good deal, as I have never rece'd [received] a letter from you since I came into the service. My respects to Mrs. Bates & her family; I would like very much to hear how they are all getting along. Please answer this letter as soon as you get it: & tell me how you all are getting along. Give my respects to Mr. Hamilton & his family: also to my father in law & his wife. I wish you would write to my wife & see if you can find out why she don't write to me. My Regards to Mr. Burkley & family: & tell Johnnie I hope to be home soon.
No more at present
Yours as ever.
Ed Delaney
Direct to me, Co. E. 117th U.S.C.T
Brownsville, Texas

This letter gives me the impression that Delaney and Graves had a rather amicable relationship. The tone of the letter seems to be of genuine concern and trust. That, combined with the fact that Delaney sent Graves his photograph as a soldier seem to indicate that they did not have the normal master-slave relationship. Unfortunately, Delaney's service records do not include his enlistment form,which would indicate whether Graves gave his permission for Delaney to enlist or not.

In the next post I will share another letter Delaney sent to Graves about two months after the one shared above.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Banjo Player

The Banjo Player
by William Sidney Mount, 1856

also see The Bones Player

Friday, February 14, 2014

Nelly Was a Lady

Nelly Was a Lady
Written and Composed by Stephen Collins Foster

Down on de Mississippi floating,
Long time I trabble on de way,
All night de cottonwood a toting,
Sing for my true lub all de day.

Nelly was a lady,
Last night she died,
Toll de bell for lubly Nell,
My dark Virginny bride.

Now I'm unhappy, and I'm weeping,
Can't tote de cottonwood no more;
Last night, while Nelly was a sleeping,
Death came a knockin' at de door.

Nelly was a lady,
Last night she died,
Toll de bell for lubly Nell,
My dark Virginny bride.

When I saw my Nelly in de morning,
Smile till she open'd up her eyes,
Seem'd like de light ob day a dawning,
Jist 'fore de sun begin to rise.

Nelly was a lady,
Last night she died,
Toll de bell for lubly Nell,
My dark Virginny bride.

Close by de margin ob de water,
Whar de lone weeping willow grows,
Dar lib'd Virginny's lubly daughter;
Dar she in death may find repose.

Nelly was a lady,
Last night she died,
Toll de bell for lubly Nell,
My dark Virginny bride.

Down in de meadow, 'mong de clober,
Walk wid my Nelly by my side;
Now all dem happy days am ober,
Farewell, my dark Virginny bride.

Nelly was a lady,
Last night she died,
Toll de bell for lubly Nell,
My dark Virginny bride.

Here's a version of this sad song.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Old Uncle Ned

Old Uncle Ned - Composed by Stephen Collins Foster, 1848

Here's a recorded version.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Jackson Street Hospital in Augusta, Georgia

When it comes to primary sources few things catch me by surprise anymore. However, looking through the May 1860 issue of the Southern Cultivator, an antebellum agricultural publication produced in Augusta, Georgia, I came across an advertisement for the Jackson Street Hospital in Augusta.  That, of course, is not the surprising part; the surprising part is that the advertisement claimed this medical facility was a "SURGICAL INFIRMARY FOR NEGROES."

Immediately, I thought that this hospital was not solely for free people of color. Perhaps they treated free people of color, but why would a hospital for free blacks advertise in a planter's journal? It appears to me that this hospital was mainly for the treatment, rehabilitation, and cure of afflicted enslaved individuals. Is that not fascinating?

The ad strikes me as particularly intriguing because of some of the language that is included in it. First, the opening sentence clearly states that this hospital "is an acknowledged advantage to the Patient, the Owner, and the attending Physician." It clearly states the word "owner," which, of course, means it was for slaves. Secondly, it states that the hospital was established due to the "great need in the State of Georgia, and in the adjoining States." This phrase is strengthened by the next one. That is, that the infirmary "was established, ten year ago" just "for such a purpose." Now, if the Jackson Street Hospital was not proving successful and was being underutilized it is doubtful that it would have existed for a decade. Owners apparently saw the hospital beneficial and effective in the treatment of their slaves.

The ad also makes note that it is located near the town's railroad depot so owners could seemingly send their sick, diseased or worn out enslaved workers via train to be treated. Hospital amenities are enumerated as well: "rooms are furnished with proper bedding and accommodations; and Hot, Cold shower Baths, are at all times, convenient on each floor of the building." Mentioned also is the attending staff of "Resident Physician, and both Male and Female nurses" that are "in constant attendance, and every effort made to render the patients comfortable."

Patients were received by locomotive, as mentioned above, or by steamboat. And, it only cost $10 per month for room, board, and nursing per patient. To give a comparison, in 1860, field slaves often were rented for about $10 per month.

I wasn't able to find much information on the named doctors, Henry F. Campbell and Robert Campbell, but I did find that they were brothers. The 1860 census shows Henry as a 36 year old physician with a wife named Sarah and a daughter in the household. Robert is listed as a 34 year old physician with wife Caroline and six children. Henry was worth $25,000 in real estate (likely the value of the hospital building) and $5,000 in personal property. Robert owned $8,500 in real estate and an amazing $20,900 in personal property. I was not able to find out if the brothers were slaveholders.

One source, a book on Augusta's history and published in 1890, claimed Jackson Street Hospital had 50 beds and an auditorium for clinical lectures. The book mentioned in common Lost Cause terms that "its [the hospital's] ample patronage and support well vindicated the kindness and humanity of the Southern people, in the care and attention they were willing to secure, at liberal cost, for the sick and afflicted among their dependents."  On one level I see what the author was saying here, and it certainly fits well with the paternalistic label that some owners reveled in. But on the other hand it appears, too, that owners were likely seeking to heal and cure their slaves for another motive - that is to get more labor from them. This source says that the Jackson Street Hospital operated until after the Civil War when Freedmen's Bureau hospitals took over, "supported out of the public funds."

This article also states that Dr. Henry F. Campbell was educated at the Medical College of Georgia, graduating in 1842. During the Civil War Dr.Campbell apparently secured a position as an army doctor and served in the hospital that attended to Georgia soldiers in Richmond, Virginia. After the war he served on the faculty of the New Orleans School of Medicine and also worked at Charity Hospital. Later he returned to teach at the University of Georgia. He also published numerous articles on various medical issues.

In all of my reading on slavery I had never heard of a hospital that advertised in a planter's magazine. I often had read that owners went to great expense paying for the heath care of their enslaved populations, and why wouldn't they, being such a valuable investment. But that health care usually involved a local doctor making house calls at the slave quarters to attend to sick or diseased slaves or assist in a difficult birthing. The idea of an actual slave hospital is something that is totally new to me, but this evidence proves that regardless of owners' motive - benevolent or otherwise - the health of some masters' slave work force was important enough to go great expense and effort.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Houses of Negroes---Habits, Modes of Living, & c.

It is probably not surprising that slave state  agricultural journals provided tips on how best to provide the basics for planters' enslaved populations. Food, clothing, and shelter all came in for comment. This post will provide a selection on slave housing's relation to slave health - a topic of interest to me.

Dr. Robert J. Draughon from Claiborne Alabama, wrote in to the Southern Cultivator and provided his suggestions on slave quarters. It was published in the May 1850, edition of the Cultivator. Dr. Draughon began his rather extended submission by explaining the necessity of proper hygiene in order to ensure the health of an enslaved work force. "It behooves the owners of farms, and those having the care and management of negroes, then, to institute, on all proper occasions, an inquiry as to the causes of their maladies; and when these are ascertained, to adopt such a course of policy as shall be deemed best to remove them: or, if this be impracticable, to render them harmless," advised Dr. Draughon.

Draughon then started in on what he believed was the source of the most slave sickness:
"One of the more prolific sources of disease among negroes, is in the condition of their houses, and the manner in which they live. Small, low, tight and filthy, their houses can be but laboratories of disease; whilst, on every side, grow rancorous weeds and grass, interspersed with fruit trees, little patches of vegetables and fowl-houses effectually shading the ground, and preventing that free circulation of air so essential to the enjoyment of health in a quarter. Your correspondent has frequently detected the presence of worms, and in sometimes large numbers, in negroes inhabiting houses thus conditioned and situated; so often indeed, that he almost regards their existence "as matter of course." Nothing can be so deteriorating to the blood, and consequently the secretions, as bad air. To be convinced of the truth of this assertion, your readers need but to refer to the "Reports of the Board of Health," in the nearest close-built and ill-ventilated cities and towns, and to the "sick lists" of hospitals, jails and ships.That fatal form of febrile disease, denominated "ship fever," though, to some extent, modified, has occurred repeatedly in negro houses. Not to contend for, in all probability, an admitted point, then, it may be concluded that it is important that planters should adopt some system or rule under the operation of which their negro houses shall be properly constructed, their quarters adequately ventilated and dried, and the manner of living among their negroes regulated.

It is a common custom with negroes to return in the evening from the field, tired and often in a perspiration, and lie down before their doors upon a board or bench, and sleep till 9 or 10 o'clock, while the dew is falling, and the atmosphere becomes cool and damp; instead of going into their houses, and either lying down in bed, or before a gentle fire, where the exhalation from the skin would be more gradual, and that chiliness consequent upon their sudden "cooling" would be avoided. Let planters go at this hour around their quarters, and feel the hands and feet of negroes thus conducting themselves, and they will no longer be in doubt as to the source of their "chills and fevers." Now, it is not wish of your correspondent to interfere with the household and domestic arrangements and affairs of negroes, nor to destroy their gardens and patches - to allow them which is all very proper -  but when they will not have an "eye to health" themselves, it is the interest of their owners to have an eye for them.
More anon, from yours very respectfully,
Claiborne, Ala. March, 1850."        

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mangement of Slaves

It only stands to reason that slavery would come in for significant discussion in the agricultural journals of the antebellum South. Advice on how to get the most our of one's workforce was dispensed to owners (both resident and absentee), overseers, and housekeepers to consider and apply at their discretion.

In the October 1846 issue of the Southern Agriculturist reran an article from the Southern Cultivator. It was composed by a committee of three men from the Barbour County, Alabama Agricultural Society.

The article included an introduction that discussed how important this particular topic was to planters and mentioned that with Southern society being so different from Northern society it needed even more thought. "With them [Northerners] their only property consists of lands, cattle, and planting implements. Their laborers are merely hirelings, while with us our laborers are our property; and certainly, the most important portion of it, whether we regard them merely in the light of property, or as intellectual beings, for whose welfare we are in a great degree accountable," the committee wrote.

The society that slavery provided came in for comment, too. "No more beautiful picture of human society can be drawn than a well organized plantation, thus governed by the humane principles of reason. When the negroes are well fed, well clothed, and have not unreasonable burthens imposed on them, but are accustomed to a systematic and regular course of labor, especially if the slaves have been born and reared up in the master's household, or have been long members of his family, and hence have that strong attachment which never fails to grow up between the master and his slave in the course of time, the picture never fails to remind one of the patriarchal days when Abraham had slaves born in his house or purchased with his money. Under such as state of things the master knows the man; the man, his master."  

Later in the article the committee offered a list for the best government of their enslaved workers. Not surprising is their paternalistic nature:
"Rule 1st. Never punish a negro when in a passion. No one is capable of properly regulating the punishment for an offense when angry.
2d. Never require of a negro what is unreasonable. But when you give an order be sure to enforce it with firmness, yet mildly.
3d. Always attempt to govern by reason in the first instance, and resort to force only when reason fails, and then use no more force than is absolutely necessary to procure obedience.
4th. In giving orders, always do it in a mild tone, and try to leave the impression on the mind of the negro that what you say is the result of reflection.
5th. In giving orders, be sure that you are understood, and let the negro always know that he can ask for an explanation if he does not understand you.
6th. When you are under the necessity of punishing a negro, be sure to let him know for what offense he is being punished.
7th. Never act in such a way as to leave the impression on the mind of the negro that you take pleasure in his punishment - you manner should indicate that his punishment is painful.
8th. A regular and systematic plan of operation on the plantation is greatly promotive of easy government. Have, therefore, all matters as far as possible, reduced to to a system.
9th. Negroes lack the motive of self interest to make them careful and diligent, hence the necessity of great patience in the management of them. Do not, therefore, notice too many small omissions of duty.
10th. The maxim of making haste slow in plantation operations, is equally applicable as in ordinary life. The meaning of which is, not by attempting to do too much, to overwork and consequently injure your hands [slaves]. Recollect that the journey of life is a long, and at best, a tedious one. The traveler who wishes to make a long and safe trip, always travels in regular and moderate stages. Do not kill the goose to obtain the golden egg."

The committee ended the article by suggesting that if these rules were followed by all masters the claims of abolitionists would ring hollow and "even the slaves themselves will not thank them for their efforts, but laugh them to scorn."    

Friday, February 7, 2014

Thoughts on Minstrel Songs

Perhaps I should have included some commentary when I started posting minstrel song lyrics. I have not made these recent posts in order to provide any glorification to this popular nineteenth century form of entertainment. These songs perpetuated stereotypes of African Americans that were unfair and derogatory. The depictions of blacks on many of the songs' sheet music covers and the nonsensical lyrics put incorrect images of African Americans into white Americans' minds.  However, these songs - I believe - can help us form a better understanding of race relations during the era when they became so cherished.

Many of the minstrel songs were composed by men who had little actual interaction with blacks or had not spent much time in the South. Stephen Foster was from Pennsylvania, Dan Emmett was from Ohio - and although he was in a minstrel group called the Virginia Minstrels and is often credited with writing "Dixie"- Emmett like Foster was a man of his time and of limited knowledge of African Americans. George Christy, likewise, was from New York.

Some African Americans saw minstrels differently though. Frederick Douglass printed some thoughts in his newspaper the North Star in 1848 after seeing a performance by the anti-slavery group of singers The Hutchinson Family. Douglass praised the Hutchinsons' performance and contrasted it to black-face minstrel shows, which he saw as despicable depictions of African Americans:

"The circumstances attending the visit paid last week to our youthful and beautiful city, by these mountain songsters [The Hutchinsons], makes it deserving of special notice. The pro-slavery and narrow-souled demon had preceded them.—Old Hunkerism [Democrats], filled with pride and selfishness, dreaded the presence of these high-souled mountaineers in Rochester. It had no taste for their soul-enlarging and heart-melting melody. To defeat what it could not enjoy, was its first object. The Hutchinsons were described as poor performers; their popularity was said to be on the wane; abolitionism had ruined them. Other modes were meanly adopted to disparage them in the estimation of the people of Rochester. In this mean work of detraction, we scarcely need say that the miserable dough-face who edits the Cass paper [Democrat newspaper] in this city, and through whom our daughter was basely excluded from "Seward Seminary," on account of her complexion, very appropriately took the lead. This self-elected umpire of taste in the city of Rochester, claims as much skill in matters relating to the harmony of sounds, as he assumes with respect to the harmony of colors. We warn the good people of Rochester against attending either seminaries or concerts, on pain of being expelled from respectable and refined society, should they venture to do so before obtaining the opinion of this "most learned judge" whose word is sufficient to set at defiance and veto the wishes of a whole seminary of young ladies and misses. We believe he does not object to the "Virginia Minstrels," "Christy's Minstrels," the "Ethiopian Serenaders," or any of the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied to them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow-citizens. Those performers are undoubtedly in harmony with his refined and elegant taste! Then those beautiful and highly sentimental songs which they sing, such as "Ole Zip Coon," "Jim Crow," "Ole Dan Tucker," "Jim along Josey," and a few other of such specimens of American musical genius, must spread over his spirit a charm, and awaken in his bosom a rapture only equalled by that celestial transport which thrills his noble heart on witnessing a TREMENDOUS SQUASH!"    

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Keemo Kimo

"Keemo Kimo"
George Christy and Woods'
Celebrated Banjo Song
[about 1854]

In South Caralina de darkies go,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!
Dat's whar de white folks plant de tow,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!

Cover de groud all over wid smoke,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!
And, up de darkies heads dey poke,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!

Keemo Ki-mo, Dar! oh whar?
Wid my hi, my ho, and in come Sally singing
Somtimes penny winkle, lingtum, nip-cat
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!

Milk in de dairy nine days old,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!
Frogs and de skeeters getting might bold,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!

Dey try to sleep but it ain't no use,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!
Dere legs hang out for de chickens to roost,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!

Keemo Ki-mo, Dar! oh whar?
Wid my hi, my ho, and in come Sally singing
Somtimes penny winkle, lingtum, nip-cat
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!

Dar was a frog lived in a pool,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!
Sure he was de biggest fool,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!

For he could dance and he could sing.
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!
And make de woods a-round him ring,
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!

Keemo Ki-mo, Dar! oh whar?
Wid my hi, my ho, and in come Sally singing
Somtimes penny winkle, lingtum, nip-cat
Sing song Kitty can't you ki-me oh!

Here's the 2nd South Carolina String Band version.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Maxims for Young Farmers and Overseers!

Looking through the various antebellum agricultural journals printed in the slaveholding states and available on Google Books has been quite informative. In these one can get advice on just about anything related to farming, animal husbandry, and much much more. There are articles on beekeeping and grapes; and, of course, cotton. There are thoughts on female education, and boring wells for water. Poultry of every kind come in for mention, and manures from compost to guano to calcareous marls. On top of this, the advertisements are intriguing too. They offered mills of all kind, plows of all kinds, cultivators of all kinds, and even advertised plantation land for sale.

It appears, too, that there were some attempts at humor presented also. Printed in the March 1857, edition of the American Cotton Planter and Soil of the South, which was published Montgomery, Alabama, was a brief article titled "Maxims for Young Farmers and Overseers!" At first I thought it was a serious submission, but I quickly understood that it was an valiant attempt at satire.

Maxims for Young Farmers and Overseers!

Dr. Cloud - Dear Sir: The following ten maxims are respectfully dedicated to young farmers and overseers , in the hope that in this day of agricultural progress they may effect some good:

For Young Farmers

1. As soon as you have planted your crop, be sure to make a calculation how much you will make. If you have made liberal allowances for bad seasons, sickness, and such like subtractions, you will probably be not more than two-thirds over the mark; but then, you will have had all the pleasures of anticipation, and you can easily convince yousself [sic] that your arithmetic was right, if something else was wrong.

2. Be sure not to plow deep. Geologists say the earth is a hollow globe, and you might get through the crust. Besides, if the current philosophy be true, the the interior is liquid fire, you might get your feet burnt.

3. The old adage that "time is money" may do well for the face of a Yankee clock, but it is altogether beneath the philosophy of Young America. Therefore lie in bed until your breakfast is ready, and be sure to go a fishing every Sunday evening. Your corn and cotton will grow as well as while you sleep, as when you are awake; and if the grass grows, who cares for grass?

4. Scientific agriculturalists make a great noise about rotation of crops. Don't believe a word they say. "Rotation of crops, indeed!! Wonder if the rotation of a wagon wheel don't it land in a mud hole at last? Bug who? Every body knows that good land makes more cotton than poor land - so continue to plant your best field in cotton as long as you please. If it wears out, you can go to Texas.

5. As you value your future prospects in life, and your reputation as a physiologist, never suffer a curry-comb to scratch the sides of your mules. It wears them out, (the curry-combs) and curry-combs cost money. If the pores of their skin should be clogged up with dust, they can rub themselves against a tree or the corner of a fence; and everybody knows there is glorious luxury in scratching!

For Overseers

6. If you are an overseer, and a young one at that, look sour at your negroes the first day, and kick up a general row the second.  Africans are nothing but brutes, and they will love you the better for whipping, whether they deserve it or not. Besides, by this manly course you will show your spunk. To be sure, a half dozen of them may take to the woods, but that is no loss to you.

7. Be sure to make your office a sinecure.- Congressmen, Judges, and civil officers generally do so, and why not overseers? To this end, ride once in the forenoon to where you can see your hands, and then gallop off to some store, blacksmith's shop, or wherever you can find a crowd to listen to your interesting conversation. This is the only way to "magnify your office."

N.B.- Whatever else you may neglect, never forget to put yourself in the possessive case in regard to your owner's property - say "my negroes, my mules, my cotton," &c. Your employer is a lazy skunk, and has no right to any thing.

8. Swear like "our army in Flanders," yourself; but whip every negro on the plantation who dares to use profane language - the ebony scamps, what right they to imitate their overseer?

9. If your horse becomes lame, or from any other cause cannot carry you, as in No. 7, seek some "boundless contiguity of shade," where you can enjoy a comfortable snooze - nothing like "otium cum dignitate."

10. If your employer desires you to plant his cotton or corn in a manner different from that which you think best, be sure to spoil every thing, in its cultivation. You will then prove to him that his plans are wrong, and yours right.

Jannary [sic], 1857.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Treatment of Slaves

One can gain significant insight into slaveholders' thoughts by reading submissions to antebellum Southern agricultural journals. My last post came from apparently a Virginia woman, who provided suggestions to her fellow slaveholding housekeepers on how to efficiently manage those enslaved individuals employed in domestic tasks. The Southern Planter, published in Richmond, Virginia, printed it in 1843.

Today's post comes from another planting journal, "The Southern Cultivator, A Monthly Journal, Devoted to the Interests of Southern Agriculture and Designed to Improve both the Soil and the Mind; to Elevate the Character of the Tillers of the Soil, and to Introduce a more Enlightened System of Agriculture." The Southern Cultivator was published in Augusta, Georgia.  This brief submission was provided by an anonymous writer from Wilkinson County, Mississippi. It was published in 1860.

"Treatment of Slaves - Mr. Guerry"

EDITORS SOUTHERN CULTIVATOR - Allow me in a few lines to express my gratification in reading the sensible and gentlemanly article of Mr. Guerry in the current number of the Cultivator.

The article replied to reminded me of the phrase common among a certain class of overseers -"getting their satisfaction out of a negro!" It is this unrelenting, brutalizing drive, drive, watch and whip, that furnishes facts to abolition writers that cannot be disputed, and that are infamous. Mr. Guerry is right - treat your negroes well and he will respond to it with fidelity and honesty; kind words, humane consideration, justness in discipline, unhesitating authority when required, forbearance towards venal offenses, arousing pride of character, recognizing the personality of each one, not only in the week's rations but in the week's work - these make the negro most effective as a worker in the place of his appointment, these make the Institution truly "patriarchal" in character, and rob the phrase of its satire, as used by the Greelyites of Abolitiondom. But it may be said, how can the owner of hundreds of slaves treat them as proposed? God pity the man who owns more than he can intimately know and characteristically govern, either in person or by proxy. If the owner is a full grown man, even if it has to be done by proxy, his spirit will prevail, and the manager of the far-off quarter place will have a perpetual consciousness of responsibility that will, in good degree hold him to his duty. And good men may be obtained for this office and should be. The licentious, profane, the cruel, the false overseer should be kept on the home place or sent to Ohio.

If it were possible, by law, or public opinion, to prevent the acquisition of negroes beyond, say one hundred, the institution would be more efficiently worked; the negro more intrinsically more valuable, because the better cared for and better governed, and the many evils incident to quarter places obviated. But this may never be.

Public opinion however may be so educated to as to put its condemnation upon many things that we know are cancerous and fungous to slavery; that offend pure morals and common humanity; that corrupt the slave and degrade the white man. We may and should make the slave the friend, and so defy scoundrel book-pedlars and Ohio fruit-grafters and the whole crew of John Brown spies and strikers, who make us winter visits annually. B
Wilkinson county, Miss., June, 1860.  

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.