mudcat.org: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafeawe

Post to this Thread - Printer Friendly - Home
Page: [1] [2] [3]


PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban

DigiTrad:
PICK A BALE OF COTTON


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: Pick a Bale of Cotton (55)
Chord Req: Pick A Bale of Cotton (16)


dick greenhaus 14 Nov 05 - 10:07 AM
GUEST,Andy 14 Nov 05 - 10:13 AM
greg stephens 14 Nov 05 - 10:34 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 14 Nov 05 - 10:50 AM
katlaughing 14 Nov 05 - 10:57 AM
mack/misophist 14 Nov 05 - 11:02 AM
Bill D 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM
GUEST,leeneia 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM
Peace 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM
beardedbruce 14 Nov 05 - 11:05 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 14 Nov 05 - 11:27 AM
Nick 14 Nov 05 - 12:06 PM
Cool Beans 14 Nov 05 - 12:32 PM
wysiwyg 14 Nov 05 - 12:33 PM
Peace 14 Nov 05 - 12:33 PM
Ebbie 14 Nov 05 - 12:54 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Nov 05 - 01:51 PM
Clinton Hammond 14 Nov 05 - 01:53 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Nov 05 - 01:58 PM
pdq 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM
Gedpipes 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM
Coyote Breath 14 Nov 05 - 02:11 PM
Clinton Hammond 14 Nov 05 - 02:12 PM
Coyote Breath 14 Nov 05 - 02:28 PM
ToulouseCruise 14 Nov 05 - 02:37 PM
Kaleea 14 Nov 05 - 02:59 PM
Jon W. 14 Nov 05 - 03:23 PM
mg 14 Nov 05 - 04:03 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 14 Nov 05 - 04:10 PM
Liz the Squeak 14 Nov 05 - 04:15 PM
Ernest 14 Nov 05 - 04:36 PM
Peace 14 Nov 05 - 04:43 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Nov 05 - 04:44 PM
Peace 14 Nov 05 - 05:03 PM
GUEST,HughM 14 Nov 05 - 05:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Nov 05 - 06:06 PM
Jeri 14 Nov 05 - 06:47 PM
Azizi 14 Nov 05 - 07:05 PM
Big Mick 14 Nov 05 - 07:24 PM
Azizi 14 Nov 05 - 07:37 PM
Joybell 14 Nov 05 - 07:39 PM
Azizi 14 Nov 05 - 07:39 PM
Jeri 14 Nov 05 - 07:59 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Nov 05 - 08:16 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Nov 05 - 08:52 PM
David Ingerson 14 Nov 05 - 09:10 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Nov 05 - 09:33 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 14 Nov 05 - 09:41 PM
Azizi 14 Nov 05 - 10:06 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:






Subject: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:07 AM

Folk Song Angers Parents, NAACP in Mich.


BERKLEY, Mich. (AP) - A black parent and the NAACP are criticizing a middle school's decision to perform a song that they say glorifies slavery.

The song, ``Pick a Bale of Cotton,'' is on the folk music choir program Wednesday at predominantly white Anderson Middle School in the Berkley School District.

The song's lyrics include, ``Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton. Gotta jump down, turn around, Oh, Lordie, pick a bale a day.''

Greg Montgomery told The Detroit News that he complained to school officials, and when he was dissatisfied with their response, decided to pull his 11-year-old daughter, China, from singing.

``It's mind-boggling that people don't understand sensitive issues,'' he said.

China said: ``They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn't a good memory. It was disrespectful to African-Americans.''

Berkley schools spokeswoman Gwen Ahern said district officials would consider the song's origin and decide whether to leave it in the concert program. She also defended the choice.

``We used to sing that song when I was in school during the '50s,'' she said. ``It's like a Southern type of folk song. I remember it being perky. It was more of a song that people just sang for fun.''
Messages from multiple threads combined. To see which started out as which, watch the message titles.
-Joe Offer-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: GUEST,Andy
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:13 AM

And yet ANOTHER load of bollocks from the lefty, limp-wristed, hand wringing, liberal P.C brigade. When are they going to get real?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: greg stephens
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:34 AM

Leadbelly was jeered at the time by younger trendier black student audiences. It was a shame then, and it is a shame now, that people can be so distorted by PC victimology that they cannot recognise and feel the thrill of the incredible black folk music of the USA.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:50 AM

I learned the song from an Odetta record.

Art


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: katlaughing
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:57 AM

I learned it from a Harry Belafonte record and would like to see what he would think of this.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Davis, was white, from Louisiana and told us about growing up and picking cotton, herself. The big story was about the snake which crawled in her cotton sack one day.

As a grandmother of mixed-race children, I am sensitive. Some of my ancestors owned slaves. I think, if they choose to keep the song in the program, they could preface it with an educational bit and the kids would be the richer for it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: mack/misophist
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:02 AM

I was taught to pick cotton by a black lady. It's a nasty job but both races did it. It's nasty even with a 7 foot sack (Real pros use a 14 foot sack.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: Bill D
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM

"Sit down, turn around
Learn a bit of history.
Sit down, turn around,
Learn a bit a day."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM

"they could preface it with an educational bit and the kids would be the richer for it."

That's exactly right. And it wouldn't just be the kids that learn something.

Somebody should hand that dad a copy of "Blue Willow", a children's book about life in the Depression, and point out the contest where the girl's father, a white man, enters the cotton-picking contest.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: Peace
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:03 AM

"And yet ANOTHER load of bollocks from the lefty, limp-wristed, hand wringing, liberal P.C brigade"

The other half of your rhyming couplet:

And yet ANOTHER load of bollocks from the righty, mind-twisted, shit slinging, conservative P.C brigade

It has to do with stupidity, not politics, Andy.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: beardedbruce
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:05 AM

hear, hear, Peace.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 11:27 AM

IMHO, the black community might do well to look at this problem from a slightly different angle.

The song, like many others, was not sung by whites to denigrate black people. It was an example of the way in which blacks, despite the vicissitudes of slavery, were able to keep their spirit alive, and the fact that it has survived to be sung today should be seen as a compliment to the fortitude of those unfortunates who, torn from their homelands, were still able to produce this kind of material.

Don T.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: Nick
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 12:06 PM

Look at the words of the verses -

|: That nigger from Shiloh
Can pick a bale of cotton
That nigger from Shiloh
Can pick a bale a day. :|
Chorus:

Me and my gal can pick . . . .

Me and my wife . . . .

Me and my buddy . . . .

Me and my poppa . . . .

Takes a mighty big man to . . . .

*****

We all help each other - but that nigger can do it by himself.

No. You're right. How on earth could the words or sentiment cause any offence to anyone?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Cool Beans
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 12:32 PM

Should "Pick a Bale of Cotton" be banned from a middle school concert? Here's a story from the Nov. 14 Detroit News:
   
    OAK PARK -- China Montgomery simply wants to sing. It is her first love, not including math and Barbie dolls.
But when the Anderson Middle School student showed her parents the lyrics to a song her school choir is scheduled to sing in a concert Wednesday, they were appalled.

The title: "Pick a Bale of Cotton."

To China's parents, the song glorifies slavery in a shameful era of U.S. history. It is called an "American folk song" on the music sheet the children are learning.

Greg Montgomery, China's father, is African-American. He appealed to everyone from the school's principal to the superintendent of the Berkley School District to pull the song from the concert. The school is mostly white.

There are several versions of the song, including at least one with a racial slur repeated twice in one verse. The slur does not appear in the version the 30 choir students -- six of them African-American -- were asked to sing.

When Montgomery's pleas to pull the song from the concert were met with what he described as resistance, he decided to remove his daughter, 11, from the concert.

"We just buried Mother Parks, and this is happening only a few weeks later," he said. "It's mind-boggling that people don't understand sensitive issues.

"When I told my 81-year-old Aunt Minnie Ridout, she told me to tell the school administrators to come see her back," Montgomery said. Her back is still affected by the countless hours she spent bending to pick cotton as a girl, he said.

"She said she was not jumping around and singing while she was picking cotton in Alabama and the Mississippi Delta as a young girl."

The school principal, Steve Frank, was not available to comment. The vice principal, Jim Cowdry, said he only knew "bits and pieces" of the issue and deferred to Superintendent Nancy Campbell, who deferred to Gwen Ahern, communications supervisor for the Berkley School District.

"We used to sing that song when I was in school during the '50s," she said. "It's like a Southern type of folk song. I remember it being perky. It was more of a song that people just sang for fun."

Ahern then proceeded to sing the song over the telephone.

"This is going to be a folk music concert, and children will be performing songs from Germany, England, Mexico and other places."

Asked if she knew about the Montgomerys' concerns, Ahern said yes. "As far as I know, they're going ahead with the concert," she said. She added that district officials will study the origins of the song.

The children will be singing, in part, "Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton. Gotta jump down, turn around, Oh Lordie, pick a bale a day."

Dr. Eugene Rogers, president of the North Oakland County NAACP, called the situation unbelievable.

"Some people think they should be able to do anything, and we should be able to adjust and not take it personally," he said. "But I've lived through all of this, and I'm still living through it."

Rogers said it is insensitive to proceed with the song. "People shouldn't have to be subjected to this, especially our children."

Geena Guice, a Wayne County psychotherapist who works with African-American children on issues including self-esteem, said the song perpetuates the stereotype of the happy black slave.

"I am shocked that educators of our children would have so little concern about cultural diversity or support for a developing adolescent's self-image."

Guice said being asked to sing a cheerful song about slavery marginalizes a black child. "It singles her out in a derogatory manner, and would definitely challenge her identity development and self-esteem."

China said she'd never heard the song before her class started learning it. But it didn't take long for her to figure out what the song is about.

"The first day that we got it, I didn't understand that it was a bad song, but about two or three days later I finally understood what the words meant," China said. "I understood that it wasn't a nice song to sing because it's talking about African-American people.

"They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn't a good memory. It was disrespectful to African-Americans."

Later Friday, Ahern said she spoke with the superintendent and assistant superintendent.

"We're going to investigate the origin of the song to see what the climate was at that time," she said. "We want to see if it was uplifting or derogatory, and then we'll decide."

Asked if she knew there was a version with a racial slur, Ahern said yes.

"It's been an American folk song forever," she said, "and it's been sung in schools forever."

#


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 12:33 PM

See Dick G's earlier thread of today....

~S~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Peace
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 12:33 PM

There is a thread on this already. Perhaps they could be combined?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?
From: Ebbie
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 12:54 PM

My thought exactly, Nick. It is easy for Whites to sit here at
our computers and harrumph at others' sensitivity. Frankly, in my opinion, we Whites don't have a clue as to what exacerbates old wounds. And we don't get the right to choose.

"Somebody should hand that dad a copy of "Blue Willow", a children's book about life in the Depression, and point out the contest where the girl's father, a white man, enters the cotton-picking contest. " leenia

Question, leenia: In that (fictional) story did that white man win the contest?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Folk song banned
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 01:51 PM

link


Complaints Lead Michigan School to Drop Folk Song

BERKLEY, Mich. (Nov. 14) - A song about people picking cotton was pulled from a middle school concert in suburban Detroit after a black parent complained that it glorifies slavery.

Superintendent Tresa Zumsteg decided Monday to remove the song "Pick a Bale of Cotton" from the program, said Gwen Ahearn, spokeswoman for the Berkley School District.

Ahearn said that when the song was picked for Wednesday's folk songs concert at Anderson Middle School, there was no intent to offend anyone.

"As it became apparent that that is the case, we pulled the song," she said.

The school is predominantly white.

The song's lyrics include, "Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton. Gotta jump down, turn around, Oh, Lordie, pick a bale a day."

Parent Greg Montgomery said he complained to school officials, and when he was dissatisfied with their response, decided to pull his 11-year-old daughter, China, from singing.

"It's mind-boggling that people don't understand sensitive issues," he told The Detroit News.

China said: "They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn't a good memory. It was disrespectful to African-Americans."

Ahearn said there's nothing derogatory in the song's lyrics, but the district did not want China to miss the concert.

"For her family and the school district, the best thing was to pull the song," she said.

Earlier, Ahearn, while confirming that officials were considering pulling the song, had defended the choice.

"We used to sing that song when I was in school during the '50s," she said. "It's like a Southern type of folk song. I remember it being perky. It was more of a song that people just sang for fun."


11/14/05 10:43 EST
    Duplicate threads combined. Watch the message titles to see which was which.
    -Joe Offer-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 01:53 PM

Good for them....


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 01:58 PM

sorry... did not see that thread because the title seemed a bit vague.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: pdq
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM

Wonder what Johnny Cash, Glenn Campbell and Tammy Wynette would say about this song. They seem to have spent part of their respective youths picking cotton and survived.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM

First collected from prison farms in Texas, a boastful song about picking an impossibly large quantity of cotton (it has never been done). The version with the lines about the "nigger from Shiloh" was sung by Moses Clear Rock Platt, African-American singer, story teller and sometime prisoner on prison farms in Texas. His material was first recorded by Lomax (printed in Lomax and Lomax, 1934, "American Ballads and Folk Songs," pp. 231-233).

Pete Seeger picked it up, and along with the printed version in Silber, "Folksinger's Wordbook," p. 123 (with chords), it became a standard among folk singers. I believe it was Seeger who introduced the "Jump down turn around" lines, borrowed from the old dance and strut songs (Jump Jim Crow, mentioned in a previous post) of the minstrels. Another African-American who recorded it, first on a Texas prison farm, was James 'Ironhead' Baker (Rounder Records).

According to the Traditional Ballad Index, Seeger also recorded it with Sonny Terry.

The Lead Belly version is posted in thread 72256. Pick a Bale

Rather than teaching and interpreting American history, many would suppress it and stick to "Yankee Doodle" and "Remember the Alamo."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Gedpipes
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:05 PM

Good grief


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:11 PM

"Perky"?

Wasn't "Jump Down..." featured in a Steve Martin film? Can't remember the title but the premise was that he, white, was raised by a black family and believed himself to be black. It's been years since I saw the film, it might have been a SNL sketch...

I never liked the song. It seemed to me to be a reference to the "happy darkies" singing and dancing for their white "masters" notion held by many whites. I always thought it offensive.

Blazing Saddles has a sharp edged parody of that notion. The racist cowboys end up performing "Camptown Races" while the black laborers sing a very polished "I Get a Kick Out of You".

CB


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:12 PM

"a Steve Martin film?"

The Jerk


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:28 PM

Right! I should have remembered that having just seen the special on his receiving the Mark Twain award.

CB


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: ToulouseCruise
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:37 PM

it does make one think that the southern music (much of which was written BY the African-Americans of the day) has been the truest influence on the music of America today, from blues to folk to good ol' rock and roll. I agree that sensitivity must come into play. However, the people of today must take into account that the components of that period of history have been the source of many favorable things today, the development of music being one of them.

Brian


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Kaleea
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 02:59 PM

I vaguely remember the song, but I do not remember lyrics having to do with any particular race or color or slavery, but I'm sure there are lots of different versions of most songs. I do know that my mother & every member of her family-which included her 9 siblings-picked cotton in Eastern Oklahoma. My mother's family happens to be of mainly Irish ancestry, not African-American. I asked my mother about the song, & she said she remembered hearing it being while picking cotton when she was young. She said there were many songs sung about cotton, especially while picking out in the fields. She said she always thought the song was supposed to be satirical as picking cotton is such back breaking work.
   The song about picking cotton which was often requested of me in nursing homes (in Oklahoma) was Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home. Once when singing it (in Tulsa), I saw the look on the faces of a couple of young Black nurse aids, I asked the residents (mostly white) how many of them had picked cotton when they were young. Almost all raised their hands, and I asked them to share their memories of those days. The black employees were talking about it all day, as they had assumed that only slaves picked cotton, and were shocked that so many of the residents there had picked cotton for very small amounts of money. I believe all of the nursing home employees learned much that day.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Jon W.
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 03:23 PM

great story, Kaleea


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: mg
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:03 PM

my mother's family was sharecroppers in Texas...I don't know what they raised but it might have included cotton...my father's family worked on the railroads..should we kill the railroad songs/


I would continue with the song, with the guest grandmother, with putting it in historical context, with listening to the prison gang singing the originals..of course scrub the song clean..perhaps leave out the dance and sing it a bit less chipperly and use it as a teaching experience with the invovlement of the African American families. mg


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:10 PM

The song is an american folk song. By today's standards it can be considered politically incorrect, but it is still an American folksong that depicts a certain time in America that is different from today.

But banning it will not change history. I am afraid that this is political correctness rearing it's head as usual trying to erase or rewrite history so someone won't be offended.

Get over it. Celebrate that it is no longer like this, but do not deny it and erase the music of a period.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk song banned
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:15 PM

An African American and he called his daughter China? Consider me boggled.

LTS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Folk Song Ban: 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
From: Ernest
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:36 PM

Does this story tell us who is killing folk music? Answers another thread...
Best wishes
Ernest


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:43 PM

"Celebrate that it is no longer like this, but do not deny it and erase the music of a period."

That, sir, was well said.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 04:44 PM

Comeon Ernest, lets not start thinking the sky is falling.   This could have been any type of song and the same problem would have occured.

If anything, this story shows us how screwed up the education system is. Instead of teaching the children about the history of the song, they choose to make a stand.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Peace
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 05:03 PM

I grew up poor and I seem to have returned to my roots. Songs about economic struggle or poverty do not upset me. I cannot speak to the sensitivities of other people, but I am not in favour of revisionist history. There's been too much of that.

When I teach students about the birth of rock and roll, we go back to slave songs, gospel, jazz, bebop, folk, etc. And we talk about Billie and her addiction just as we'd discuss Sir John A Macdonald's love of the bottle, or more accurately, its contents. Students have to be exposed to music that shows the period--because all that music was written based on someone's understanding of what was going on.

People still read the book called "And Then There Were None". It was originally published in England with the title, "Ten Little Niggers". Later, when they went to release it in the US, they figured they'd better change that title, so, in keeping with the time, they named it "Ten Little Indians". Those facts don't change. And knowing that little snippet of information lets me know a bit about what society then considered acceptable. Nigger is not a word I use. However, when I see it in "Huckleberry Finn" it lets me understand that there was a time when I WOULD have used the word and been quite comfortable with it. I am thankful I'm not, but Twain's classic shouldn't be revised to appease the sensitivities of people who'd rather pretend to be aghast than address the issue and provide some critical thinking skills for the kids at the same time. IMO.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: GUEST,HughM
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 05:14 PM

A friend recently told me that his father, as a German prisoner in the second world war, had to pick cotton, supervised by black people. Many of his comrades died, not being accustomed to the heat. Evidently the Geneva convention should have been more widely publicised.
   I can see that some people might think the song was trivialising the arduous conditions, but if we always used that as a criterion of acceptability, there would be a great many songs about work which we would have to delete from our repertoires, leaving only the miserable ones.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 06:06 PM

More digression-
China? Why not?
France Nuyen, the Asian-American acrress (Susie Wong, Liat and other roles) was named after her country of birth. Didn't make no never mind.

In WW2, German prisoners of war worked on Oklahoma farms (prison camp near Muskogee), some with cotton. No deaths, but sore backs and bleeding hands for a while.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: Jeri
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 06:47 PM

The problem with making songs that remind people of a certain way of life go away is that it makes a bit of history go away. You try to tell people how things were, and you know, "If things really WERE that way, there would be music. There would be stories in song." So you make the evidence of things you don't think are nice go away, and the things appear to never have happened.

China (the 11-year old former choir member) said, "They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn't a good memory. It was disrespectful to African-Americans." So the memories of slavery should only be happy ones, and it's disrespectful to make people think about what African-Americans went through.

Now, if they wanted to drop the song because they didn't like it, I'd understand.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:05 PM

Liz the Squeak,

In my not at all humble opinion, anyone should be free to name their child any name from any language in the world regardless of their
[or their child's] race or ethnicity.

For example, I was given a Hebrew birth name, and I am African American. It's possible that I have Jewish ancestry. After all African Americans are a mixed race people. However, my parents chose my name because they liked the sound of it.

When I was 20 years old, I adopted the KiSwahili name I use now because I like the sound of it and I like what it means.

Alot of people who aren't Jewish have Hebrew names
[you for instance?].

****

With regard to the song "Pick A Bale Of Cotton"-I personally dislike this song for the stereotypical history it alludes to.

But then again, I dislike just about all of American minstrelfied folk songs. They make me cringe because they are more than lyrics and notes to me.

I certainly feel that that school district showed a remarkable lack of foresight in selecting "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" as representative of African American folk culture.

I could call them names, but I won't.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Big Mick
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:24 PM

Azizi, with all due respect, I need to know what your opinion is with regard to Leadbelly, Moses Clear Rock Platt, Odetta, and Harry Belafonte thinking the song was important enough to record it and preserve it?

All the best,

Mick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:37 PM

Big Mick-

You will note that I said that this is my personal opinion.

As to the opinion of any other person-Black, White, or Green- "Different strokes for different folks."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Joybell
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:39 PM

Songs are more than notes and lyrics to most of us here, Azzizi. Many of the above posts (and the posts elsewhere) seem to indicate that, I reckon.
We've all experienced pain and misery for one reason or another. Joy and happiness too. How can any of us know who feels the deeper pain or the greater joy. And why should it matter. The common experience of being human unites us, and the common experience of being singers. Cheers, Joy


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:39 PM

And Big Mick,

all the best to you too

[and no sarcasm is meant what so ever].

You've paid your dues as have many here.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: Jeri
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 07:59 PM

There was a page at the Smithsonian site, but it's gone now. Google has it archived here.

They say:

        
Eli Whitney's Patent Failure

Whitney's cotton gin patent did not bring wealth to Eli Whitney, despite the immediate and wide application of his gin. The problem was that the device was too easily copied. Those who understood the basic design could reproduce and sell it without needing a model or measured drawings in hand. They did not pay Whitney his required royalties, nor did individuals who made their own gins. Whitney tried to take the violators to court, but he used up all his profits in fighting their patent infringements. Although it was a very simple and successful invention, Whitney's gin was a patent failure.


American Cotton Culture

When George Washington was president the cotton gin launched a sweeping migration across the South. Within a half century, slaves and masters, rich and poor, established what Southerners called the Cotton Kingdom. From the Carolinas, where tobacco and rice had long dominated agriculture, to Louisiana, where sugar production made its start during the Revolutionary era, cotton plantations and slavery grew side by side with family farms. In significant ways, cotton shaped antebellum U.S. history, both in the South, where it was grown, and in the North, where wage earners manufactured it into cloth. Its cultivation fuelled the westward movement and reinvigorated slavery, and the issues generated over free trade and the tariff, slavery and freedom, states rights, and nationalism contributed to the Civil War.

The war destroyed slavery, and sharecropping--an arrangement that allowed landlord and tenant to share the proceeds of the crop--emerged as the dominant labor system. Landlords, bankers, insurance companies, and credit merchants controlled ever larger areas of the rural south. Cotton moved westward, spurred not only by economic forces but also by the invasion of the boll weevil into Texas and the Southeast. Everywhere cotton went, it reordered time and work, forcing all growers, regardless of wealth, into an annual cycle that included land preparation and planting in the spring, cultivation through early summer, and picking, ginning, and marketing in the autumn.

Many cotton growers, especially sharecroppers, lived hard lives and depended on friends and community for support. But, they made time for worship, visiting, and music. Scholars now realize that they created an exceedingly rich and important culture. Country music and blues, for example, are now recognized as unique contributions to American life. Southern novelists, shaped by the traditions that surrounded them, often used the rural South as the setting for their work.

The way of life that had matured over a century and a half began to unravel in the 1930s as New Deal policies cut production, reduced the labor force, and encouraged mechanization. World War II opened defense jobs to rural people, and others joined the armed forces. Most never returned to the land. After the war, the mechanical cotton picker and chemical herbicides revolutionized rural work and drastically reduced the need for hand labor.

Cotton cultivation today relies upon capital more than labor; it bears little resemblance to the old culture that faded away in the 1940s and '50s.

From "Rhythm of the Land: The Legacy of the Cotton Culture," brochure, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, 1984


"Pick a Bale of Cotton"

"Pick a Bale of Cotton" from the recording entitled Get on Board: Negro Folksongs by the Folkmasters, Folkways FP 2028, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. © 1952. Used by permission.

"Pick a Bale" has been classed as a work song but it also was used frequently during slave times as a dance tune or reel. As a work song it has a "John Henry" twist in that the lyric speaks of picking a bale of cotton a day, an impossible task for one person. This version of the song is credited to the late Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter and is more of a joyous dance interpretation than a work lament. Sonny Terry sings the verse over and over with the other two singers filling in a low chanted background.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 08:16 PM

Mis-information in my post of 2:05 PM. Just listened to the Rev. Mose Platt sing this perky little work song on the Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip (American Memory, Library of Congress). He used the phrase "jump down turn around, pick a bale a day."
The version is quite different from the one ascribed to 'Clear Rock' (Platt) in Lomax, ABFS 1934, which has the Shiloh verse, but not the 'jump around' phrase. I can't find a recording listed for Platt before 1939. Platt could have changed his lyrics, or those in Lomax could be a 'combined' version put together by Lomax- which has happened before. His recording of the song in his "Deep River of Song" collection lists an "unknown axe-cutting group" as singing the song.
The Traditional Ballad Index lists a 1933 recording by James "Iron Head" Baker, which I haven't heard, as the first record of the song.
Does anyone have the words to this one?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 08:52 PM

"They were bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton, and it wasn't a good memory."

And that's why it's a memory to preserve and hold on to. It's a song about black workers refusing to be ground down by slave drivers, and their successors after the formal end of slavery.

If they were singing it in a way that seemed to airbrush the oppression out of it, and suggest it was all happy folk singing their hearts out in a time that was really pretty good, it'd be quite right to object to that - and for all you can tell from what I've seen that might be what it was happening.

hat quote there rather suggests that that might have been the case: "It's like a Southern type of folk song. I remember it being perky. It was more of a song that people just sang for fun".

Treating it as "perky" and "fun" seems to show a lack of respect and sensitivity, where respect and sensitivity is important - becuiasde it is a song that should be "...bringing back the memories of how African-Americans picked cotton", and those are not memories that no American, black or white, should see as "happy".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: David Ingerson
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 09:10 PM

From China's comments, it appears that the teacher never put the song in its historical and cultural context for the students or led a discussion about its implications or people's reactions and feelings about it.

This is one result of one of the main problems in education today, IMO (and an informed opinion it is, having been an elementary and middle school teacher for 18 years): few, if any, connections are made between "disciplines." So this is music class and we don't talk about history or culture--that's in the social studies class (and we don't deal with slavery until US history in 5th grade)--or emotions (only the school counselor or psych does that!).

Mary's idea of inviting the offended parties into the class to talk about their feelings and why they feel that way--their perspective--is a great one. My guess, though, is that China's father's call was transferred to the principal instead of to the teacher and it immediately became a political and public relations problem instead of an educational and cultural opportunity.

Too bad. Handled properly, the students themselves, after hearing all sides (all, not just two), could have decided themselves if they wanted to do it. What a profound opportunity was missed.

All the best,

David


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 09:33 PM

Malcolm, both white and black farmers, men and women, picked cotton, and continued to do so until the 1940s, when mechanical harvesters took over and transformed the job. In the United States, perhaps more than a million field workers had to find other work, contributing to a major migration to towns and cities across the land (The white field hands had the most trouble adjusting to city life- Many African-Americans had relatives who had previously moved 'up north' and this seems to have helped them integrate into the cities).

The song came from men chopping brush and cane, men who needed a 'perky' song. It is a boastful song, "sung with as much vigor as if he could get up the next minute and pick a bale of cotton, and in a half-day," by Platt. Listen to Rev. Mose Platt sing it on American Memory.

It may never have been used by cotton-pickers. "Pick a Bale" has not been found in any collection before the 1930s, it may well have been just a handy line, much as 'pick a peck of pickles' in the kid's tongue-twister. The rhythm is wrong for picking cotton.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton'
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 09:41 PM

Someone above said that it was the fault of the American education system.

This could be true.

Now, ask yourself which type of political agenda has had this kind of influence on education. Liberal or conservative?

Is that the backfire of a car I hear?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Nov 05 - 10:06 PM

I stongly agree with David Ingerson's points.

However, I would also say that even putting a song like this in context would make it still difficult for some African Americans like me to accept it.

I think it is because the words used then have different connotations now. When I was much younger-when I didn't know my "roots and culture" I remember using the expression "Lordy Miss Claudie!" .I guess this is from some other song..

But now in my old age "Lordy Miss Claudie" and the "Oh Lordy!" in "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" are "muddied" for me with the stigma of Stephin Fetchet.

So should "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" be sung just for fun in schools-I don't think so.

Should the song be used as a cultural, historical folklorist lesson in schools. I say yes.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
Next Page

  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 22 July 8:05 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.