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Jump Jim Crow

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Wikipedia article

"'Jump Jim Crow'" or "'Jim Crow'" is a song and dance from 1828 that was done in blackface by white minstrel performer Thomas Dartmouth (T. D.) "Daddy" Rice. The song is speculated to have been taken from Jim Crow (sometimes called Jim Cuff or Uncle Joe), a physically disabled enslaved African, who is variously claimed to have lived in St. Louis, Cincinnati, or Pittsburgh., [https://books.google.com/books?id=P3cCAAAAIAAJ&lpg=PA138&ots=nSxZIredT4&dq=%22jim%20cuff%22%20cincinnati&pg=PA137#v=onepage&q=&f=false see pages 137-138] The song became a 19th-century hit and Rice performed all over the United States as "Daddy Pops Jim Crow".

"Jump Jim Crow" was a key initial step in a tradition of popular music in the United States that was based on the racist "imitation" and mockery of black people. The first song sheet edition appeared in the early 1830s, published by E. Riley. A couple of decades saw the mockery genre explode in popularity with the rise of the minstrel show.

However an alternative interpretation has Antebellum Jim Crow minstrel material as highly progressive with hidden political criticisms, and it was after the Civil War the songs were more regressive and racist.

"Abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic seized upon this new format, including burnt-cork blackface, to promote the end of slavery."

The song originally printed used "floating verses", which appear in altered forms in other popular folk songs. The chorus of the song is closely related to the traditional 'Uncle Joe / Hop High Ladies'; some folklorists consider "Jim Crow" and "Uncle Joe" to be a single, continuous family of songs.[http://www.bluegrassmessengers.com/jim-crow--version-3-150-verses-american-memory.aspx Alternative lyrics at Blugrassmessenger.com]

As a result of Rice's fame, the term 'Jim Crow' had become a pejorative term for African Americans by 1838, and from this the laws of racial segregation became known as Jim Crow laws.


The lyrics as most commonly quoted are:

Standard English

Other verses, quoted in non-dialect standard English:


As he extended it from a single song into an entire minstrel revue, Rice routinely wrote additional verses for "Jump Jim Crow". Published versions from the period run as long as 66 verses; one extant version of the song, as archived by American Memory, includes 150 verses.[http://www.bluegrassmessengers.com/jim-crow--version-3-150-verses-american-memory.aspx Alternative lyrics at Blugrassmessengers.com] Verses range from the boastful doggerel of the original version to an endorsement of President Andrew Jackson (known as "Old Hickory"); his Whig opponent in the 1832 election was Henry Clay:

Other verses by Rice, also from 1832, demonstrate anti-slavery sentiments and cross-racial solidarity that were rarely found in later blackface minstrelsy:

The song also condemns Virginia for being the birthplace of George Washington, and the landing place for slaves from Guinea in Africa.

Given the anti slavery verses it is perhaps ironic that in the post civil war period discriminatory laws were named "Jim Crow Laws".


The origin of the name "Jim Crow" is obscure but may have evolved from the use of the pejorative "crow" to refer to black people in the 1730s.I Hear America Talking by Stuart Berg Flexner, New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1976, page 39; possibly also Robert Hendrickson, The Dictionary of Eponyms: Names That Became Words (New York: Stein and Day, 1985), , possibly page 162 (see edit summary for explanation). Jim may be derived from "Jimmy", an old cant term for a crow, which is based on a pun for the tool "crow" (crowbar). Before 1900, crowbars were called "crows" and a short crowbar was and still is called a "jimmy" ("jemmy" in British English), a typical burglar's tool.Lockwood's dictionary of terms used in the practice of mechanical engineering by Joseph Gregory Horner (1892).For example, in the New York statutes on burglary it reads: "... having in his possession any pick-lock, key, crow, jack, bit, jimmy, nippers, pick, betty or other implement of burglary ..."John Ruskin in Flors Clavigera writes: "... this poor thief, with his crow-bar and jimmy" (1871). The folk concept of a dancing crow predates the Jump Jim Crow minstrelsy and has its origins in the old farmer's practice of soaking corn in whiskey and leaving it out for the crows. The crows eat the corn and become so drunk that they cannot fly, but wheel and jump helplessly near the ground, where the farmer can kill them with a club."Sometimes he made the crows drunk on corn soaked in whiskey, and as they reeled among the hillocks, knocked them on the head", [https://books.google.com/books?id=RWgEAAAAQAAJ&lpg=PA67&ots=ugsPiMglu-&dq=%22A%20Legend%20of%20Crow%20Hill%22&pg=PA68 "A Legend of Crow Hill". The World at Home: A Miscellany of Entertaining Reading. Groombridge & Sons, London (1858)], page 68."Somebody baited a field-fall of crows, once, with beans soaked in brandy; whereby they got drunk.", [https://books.google.com/books?id=qTMTAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1 "Talking of Birds". The Columbian Magazine, July 1844, p. 7] (p. 350 of PDF document)."Soak a few quarts of dried corn in whiskey, and scatter it over the fields for the crows. After partaking one such meal and getting pretty thoroughly corned, they will never return to it again." The Old Farmers Almanac, 1864.

See also

* Uncle Tom


Further reading

* [https://web.archive.org/web/20040815081532/http://www.bluegrassmessengers.com/master/jimcrow5.html Lyrics and background] from the 'Bluegrass Messengers'

* In 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds', Charles Mackay, pg 629630, reported his dismay at hearing the song in London.

* 'Scandalize My Name: Black Imagery in American Popular Music', by Sam Dennison (1982, New York)


Category:1828 songs

Category:Blackface minstrel songs

Category:American children's songs

Category:American folk songs

Category:Race-related controversies in music

Category:Stereotypes of African Americans

Category:African-American-related controversies

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