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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Frank Hamilton Origins: Cotton-eyed Joe-true story/composite? (133* d) RE: Cotton-eyed Joe-true story/composite? 27 Sep 99

Can't mention minstrel show origins without concluding that the lyrics are by necessity racist. I don't know that the term "cotton-eyed Joe" is racist, more descriptive I think. It could be applied to any race.

Thanks Stewie for the discography. Very helpful.

I think that the incorporation of the minstrel show into the Appalachian tradition (ie: Uncle Dave Macon) has been cited in "That Half-Barbaric Twang", a wonderful social survey of the banjo. The question arises again as to what constitutes "good taste" in the singing of these songs. Sometimes, a straight-out explanation is in order and I think can be accepted quite readilly without offense.

I sing "Marching Through Georgia" for Southern audiences who recognize that it is a historical document and understand what General Tecumseh Sherman was about. We try to give different perpectives on this. I think the same can be done for Cotton Eyed Joe. Did the song lose it's racist overtones when it was incorporated into the Southern Mountain tradition? It may have. Many of the early settlers in the Southern Mountains according to Jean Ritchie never saw a black person and had no reference for prejudice.

Frank Hamilton

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