Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The History And Meaning Of The Chant "No Justice, No Peace"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information and comments about the protest chant "No justice, no peace".

This post also provides information about the history of the raised clenched fist protest gesture.

The content of this post is presented for historical, sociological, and cultural purpose.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all whose lives and whose efforts help to make a reality of the ideal of equal justice for all.

Thanks to those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the publishers of these vidos on YouTube.

"No justice. No peace." is a call & response protest chant that originated with African Americans. Here is information about that chant's history and meaning:

"No justice, no peace" July 15, 2013 @ 10:13 am , Filed by Ben Zimmer
..."In the [19]'80s and [19]'90s, as J.P. [Villanueva] suggests, "No justice, no peace" was unequivocally understood as conditional, not conjunctive.* I've found examples of the slogan going back to the aftermath of the Howard Beach incident in December 1986, in which Trinidadian immigrant Michael Griffith was killed by a mob of white youths. On Feb. 28, 1987, the New York Amsterdam News reported that "'No justice, no peace' has become the battle cry of the student led movement against racially motivated attacks on African peoples." The newspaper quoted protest organizer Viola Plummer as saying, "from the death of Michael Griffith on, we declare that if there is no justice there cannot be peace."

The following year, on May 11, 1988, the activist lawyer Ron Kuby testified before a hearing on racially motivated violence before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Criminal Justice. Kuby stated:
In response to the increase of hate crimes by both the police and private citizens, a new civil rights movement has started to emerge in New York. The movement is broad and diverse, but has marched under the slogan "No Justice, No Peace," a slogan which summarizes the frustration and anger of New York's Black and Latino communities. "No Justice, No Peace" remains the solemn promise of an increasing number of people in an increasingly polarized city.

Kuby framed the slogan as a "promise" rather than a threat, but the conditional reading was still clear. After the killing of Yusef Hawkins in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1989, the slogan again came to the fore. A May 13, 1990 New York Times article described protests in Bensonhurst that occurred on the same day as protests in Flatbush over allegations that a black woman had been roughed up at a Korean-owned grocery store. At the Flatbush protest, "No justice, no peace" was paired with the similarly conditional "No respect, no business," i.e., "(If you give us) no respect, (we will give you) no business." And at Bensonhurst, the slogan was rephrased as "Justice, then peace."...

Update: On his website [Entry from May 26, 2005], Barry Popik has a page devoted to "no justice no peace" and provides a couple of examples from 1987 slightly earlier than the Amsterdam News quote given above:

22 January 1987. St. Petersburg (FL) Times, "4,500 march to protest racial attack in N.Y." by Dan Jacobsen, United Press International, pg. 11A:
NEW YORK – More than 4,500 black protesters chanting slogans to the beat of pounding drums marched in Manhattan Wednesday during a day-long demonstration of "outrage" against the Howard Beach racial attack.

With fists clenched in anger, they filled Broadway at 32nd Street, site of a city welfare hotel, then led a deafening demonstration down Fifth Avenue to Mayor Edward Koch's Greenwich Village home.
Chants of "No justice, no peace" and "Mayor Koch step aside, there ain't gonna be no genocide" echoed among the office buildings as police scrambled to line the route.

22 January 1987, Newsday (Long Island, NY), "4,000 March Against Racism But Impact Of Boycott Less Clear," pg. 3:
To the deafening beat of chants, a predominately black army of nearly 4,000 protesters marched down Fifth Avenue yesterday in a declared effort to defeat the notion that blacks will tolerate racial injustice.

The march highlighted "The Day of Mourning and Outrage" for Michael Griffith, who was killed by a car Dec. 20 while fleeing a gang of white teenagers in Howard Beach, Queens. (…)
Chanting "No justice, no peace," the five-block-long stream of marchers, some shaking clenched fists, set off from the Martinique Hotel, a welfare hotel on West 32nd Street. They marched to Mayor Edward I. Koch's Greenwich Village home, a 30-block walk that took an hour."
The article that was first quoted also indicated that the "No jsutice, No peace" chant was widely used during the Trayvon Martin protests in Sanford, Florida and throughout the United States.

The "No justice, No peace" chants continues to be used in all subsequent laregly African American protests, including those which are being held to protest the shooting death of the unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

*I think that most people who chant "No justice, No peace" believe that chant has a conjunctive meaning: "(If there is) no justice, (then there will be no peace".

Note that J.P. Villanueva, the person who asked about this chant on that blog, wrote that "No Justice, No Peace" meeant that if there is no justice, then there will bee riots. I strongly reject that inteerpretation, and would use the word "protests" instead of riots.

The conjunctive meaning of "No Justice, no peace", which I think is a misinterpretation of that chant means "(There is) no justice (and there is) no peace"

Note that during his press conference in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug 15, 2014, a press confereence about the unreest in that city that was sparked by the shooting death of an unarmed Black teenager by a White policeman, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said that until there is paacee, there can be no justice. I think that this is an inept, unfortunate transposition of the "No justice, No peace" saying. Did Governor Jay Nixon understand what that saying meeans, and did he reeally mean what he said?

For the historical record, the saying "Hands up. Don't shoot" is a new protest chant that is said while holding both arms up in what is universally known as the "I surrender" pose. This chant was first used in August 9, 2014 and is alleged to be the last words and actions of Michael Brown Jr.

These examples are posted in chronological order with the oldest videos given first.

Example #1: No Justice, No Peace

MakeBanksPayCA Uploaded on Sep 28, 2011

IF WE DON'T GET NO JUSTICE, YOU DON'T GET NO PEACE. Activists fighting bank foreclosures are chanting at the property auction in Oakland, CA. This is a part of a week of action against banks like Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, US Bank, CitiBank and others that are making the rich richer and the poor poorer by not paying their fair share.

Example #2: Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin - Union Square, New York City

AllThingsHarlem, Published on Mar 21, 2012

Here is a video snapshot of the Million Hoodies March for Trayvon Martin in Union Square, New York City on March 21, 2012.
The speaker is Brian Jones a Teacher, Writer and Activist we interviewed during the rally and march. He connects the killing of Trayvon Martin to Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow and the view of black and brown men as criminals. The results of this criminalization has not only led to the mass incarceration of black men but also the murder of them like what happened with Trayvon Martin.

Produced by Still Here Harlem
Transcript of Brian Jones comments:
"This is the product of the perpetration of the idea that some people are not worthy of justice um and that those people are overwhelmingly young and Black and male. And that the best place for them is prison, and if not prison, then what Michelle Alexander describes as a kind of invisible cage of post-felony conviction life. And that’s what George Zimmerman thought when he saw a young man walking down the street with Skittles. He saw what our society has taught him to see. He saw someone who was already a criminal, and as she argues so cogently in her book, to be young, Black, and male is to be a criminal, basically nowadays. And so that’s, that’s what this is a product of. And the criminal justice system is always afraid of these cases. They’re always afraid to really get into it and have real justice served. Because to do so would reveal the depths to which this goes in their system. And every time claims of racial violence and patterns of racial injustice have been brought to court, they have said Yes, that is the pattern. However, we cannot admit it. Because to admit it would be to condemn our whole thing. And, I think that what’s happening is that that condemnation, that sense that the whole thing being rotten is becoming more and more clear in the minds of millions and millions of people. That’s what the era of mass incarceration really means- You have a mass of people involved in this thing. And the more people you involve in it, the more people begin to figure it out. And so that’s the flip side of mass incarceration. Now, a whole mass of people have a reason to think it through, critically, and to come to understand it, and now what we are seeing is to fight it, and to get into the streets and challenge it. And I think that‘s why we saw such an outpouring [of people] here in the streets today, an unbelievable outpouring."
Transcribed from the video by Azizi Powell. Additions and correections are welcome.

Example #3: No Justice No Peace


Marc Polite, Published on Aug 25, 2013
Marchers chant No Justice, No Peace at March on Washington 2013
Notice a protestor's raised clenched fist toward the end of this video. Here's some information about the history of that symbol:
"The raised fist (also known as the clenched fist) is a symbol of solidarity and support.[1] It is also used as a salute to express unity, strength, defiance, or resistance. The salute dates back to ancient Assyria as a symbol of resistance in the face of violence.[2]...

Assyrian depictions of the goddess Ishtar show her raising a clenched fist.[2] A raised fist was used as a logo by the Industrial Workers of the World[3] in 1917. The graphic symbol was popularized in 1948 by Taller de Gráfica Popular, a print shop in Mexico that used art to advance revolutionary social causes.[4] The symbol has been picked up and incorporated around the world by various groups who perceive they are oppressed...

The black fist, also known as the Black Power fist is a logo generally associated with black nationalism and sometimes socialism. Its most widely known usage is by the Black Panther Party in the 1960s"...

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Friday, August 15, 2014

The Significance Of Public Enemy's "Don't Believe The Hype" To Michael Brown's Shooting Death

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides my editorial statement about what I perceive as an attempted hype by the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department regarding the shooting death of Michael Brown, the eighteen year old unarmed African American who was killed by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014.

The bulk of this post showcases Public Enemy's 1988 Hip-Hop hit "Don't Believe The Hiype" and provides information about Public Enemy, and about that rap, and explanations about some of that rap's lines are also included in this post.

The content of this post is provided for historical, sociological, and cultural purposes.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Michael Brown and all others who have been murdered by police officials. This post is also dedicated to all those who don't believe the hype and who stand up for their rights non-violently for justice in Ferguson, Missouri and throughout the United States.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Public Enemy for their cultural legacy. Thanks to all those whose efforts help shine a light through the hype. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

"Don't believe the hype

Ignore the media, marketing, buzz, or rumors around a story, object or person -- it's nothing special. From the 1988 Public Enemy single "Don't Believe The Hype", which fought back against negative press about the band.

"Is the new Star Wars movie any good?"
"Nah, don't believe the hype"

by stones throw July 31, 2008
With regard to Michael Brown's shooting death, the "hype" is that the policeman was justified in shooting Michael Brown multiple times even after Brown held his hands up high in the air in the universal symbol of surrender because Brown had earlier robbed a store of less than $50 worth of cigars.

"It Doesn't Matter If Michael Brown Stole A Box Of Cigar" By Nick Wing, 08/15/2014 1:12 pm EDT
" [Police officer Darren] Wilson was initially thought to be responding to the crime when he confronted Brown, though Jackson later on Friday clarified that the teen was stopped because he was "blocking traffic" by walking in the middle of the street, and was not a known suspect at the time.

To be sure, any information at all about the day Brown was killed is useful, though the public way in which the police shared the photos of the incident at the convenience store suggest their motive was not public service and transparency, but an effort to shift the discussion to one about Brown's character.

But Brown's character is irrelevant. Brown's potential involvement in a crime doesn't answer the questions that citizens of Ferguson have taken to the streets for the past six days to see answered: How and why did Brown end up dead in the middle of the street? Was Wilson justified in shooting down Brown? Did Brown really assault the officer in his vehicle and reach for his gun, as police claim? Did Wilson fire the fatal shot while Brown had his hands up, as other eyewitnesses claim? How does this incident play into the broader trend of police using excessive force on unarmed black males?"...

"Don't Believe the Hype" is a song by hip hop group Public Enemy and the second single to be released from their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. The song's lyrics are mostly about the political issues that were current in the United States at the time of its release. "Don't Believe the Hype" charted at number 18 on the U.S. R&B chart and also reached a high of 18 in the UK Singles Chart in July 1988.

The B-side includes "Prophets of Rage" and "The Rhythm The Rebel", an a cappella of the opening verse from "Rebel Without a Pause" which was a popular scratching phrase.[1]"...

From ttp://
"Public Enemy is an American hip hop group consisting of Chuck D, Flavor Flav, DJ Lord, The S1W group, Khari Wynn and Professor Griff. Formed in Long Island, New York in 1982, they are known for their politically charged lyrics and criticism of the American media, with an active interest in the frustrations and concerns of the African American community. Their first four albums during the late 1980s and early 1990s were all certified either gold or platinum and were, according to music critic Robert Hilburn, "the most acclaimed body of work ever by a rap act."[1] In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Public Enemy[2] number 44 on its list of the Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[3] The group was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.[4] The band were announced as inductees for the 2013 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on December 11, 2012, making them the fourth hip-hop act to be inducted after Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run–D.M.C. and The Beastie Boys"...

SHOWCASE VIDEO: Public Enemy - Don't Believe The Hype

PublicEnemyVEVO, Uploaded on Aug 27, 2010

Music video by Public Enemy performing Don't Believe The Hype. (C) 1988 The Island Def Jam Music Group

(Public Enemy)

Don't, don't, don't
Don't, don't, don't

"Now here's what I want y'all to do for me"

[Verse 1]
Back, caught you looking for the same thing
It's a new thing, check out this I bring
Uhh, oh, the roll below the level, cause I'm living low
Next to the bass, (C'mon!), turn up the radio
They claiming I'm a criminal
But now I wonder how, some people never know
The enemy could be their friend, guardian
I'm not a hooligan, I rock the party and
Clear all the madness, I'm not a racist
Preach to teach to all (cause some they never had this)
Number one, not born to run, about the gun
I wasn't licensed to have one
The minute they see me, fear me
I'm the epitome, a public enemy
Used, abused without clues
I refuse to blow a fuse
They even had it on the news


[Verse 2]
"Yes" was the start of my last jam
So here it is again, another def jam
But since I gave you all a little something that I knew you lacked
They still consider me a new jack
All the critics you can hang 'em, I'll hold the rope
But they hope to the Pope, and pray it ain't dope
The follower of Farrakhan
Don't tell me that you understand until you hear the man
The book of the new school rap game
Writers treat me like Coltrane, insane
Yes to them, but to me I'm a different kind
We're brothers of the same mind, unblind
Caught in the middle and not surrendering
I don't rhyme for the sake of riddling
Some claim that I'm a smuggler
Some say I never heard of ya, a rap burglar
False media, we don't need it do we?
(It's fake that's what it be to ya, dig me?
Yo, Terminator X, step up on the stand
And show these people what time it is boy)


[Verse 3]
Don't believe the hype, it's a sequel
As an equal can I get this through to you
My 98 booming with a trunk of funk
All the jealous punks can't stop the dunk
Coming from the school of hard knocks
Some perpetrate, they drink Clorox
Attack the Black, because I know they lack exact
The cold facts, and still they try to Xerox
The leader of the new school, uncool
Never played the fool, just made the rules
Remember there's a need to get alarmed
Again I said I was a time bomb
In the daytime radio's scared of me
Cause I'm mad, plus I'm the enemy
They can't come on and play me in prime time
Cause I know the time, cause I'm getting mine
I get on the mix late in the night
They know I'm living right, so here go the mike, sike
Before I let it go, don't rush my show
You try to reach and grab and get elbowed
Word to Herb, yo if you can't swing this
Learn the words, you might sing this
Just a little bit of the taste of the bass for you
As you get up and dance at the LQ
When some deny it, defy it, I swing Bolos
And then they clear the lane I go solo
The meaning of all of that, some media is the wack
As you believe it's true
It blows me through the roof
Suckers, liars, get me a shovel
Some writers I know are damn devils
For them I say, don't believe the hype
(Yo Chuck, they must be on the pipe, right?)
Their pens and pads I'll snatch cause I've had it
I'm not a addict fiending for static
I'll see their tape recorder and I grab it
(No, you can't have it back, silly rabbit)
I'm going to my media assassin, Harry Allen -- I gotta ask him
(Yo Harry, you're a writer, are we that type?)
(Don't believe the hype)


[Verse 4]
I got Flavor and all those things you know
(Yeah boy, part two bum rush the show)
Yo Griff get the green, black and red, and
Gold down, countdown to Armageddon
'88 you wait the S1's will
Put the left in effect and I still will
Rock the hard jams, treat it like a seminar
Reach the bourgeois and rock the boulevard
Some say I'm negative, but they're not positive
But what I got to give, (the media says this?)
Red black and green, you know what I mean

[Outro: Flavor Flav]
Yo don't believe that hype
They got to be beaming that pipe you know what I'm saying
Yo them Megas got 'em going up to see Captain Kirk
Like a jerk and they outta work
Let me tell you a little something, man
A lot of people on daytime radio scared of us
Because they too ignorant to understand the lyrics of the
Truth that we pumping into them clogged up brain cells
That just spun their little wooden skulls they call caps
You know what I'm saying?
But the S1s'll straighten it out quick fast in a hurry
Don't worry, Flavor vision ain't blurry, you know what I'm saying?
Yo, Terminator X



These notes are assigned numbers for referencing purposes only. Most of these explanations are my ideas about those words, phrases or lines. Additions and corrections are welcome.

1. "Don't believe the hype" - Read my comment at the beginning of this post. Also, read this comment by Barbara,
"What does Don't Believe The Hype Mean?", 2006
"Don't believe the hype" is saying don't take the advertising at face value, don't buy, or buy into, something just because it's well-promoted; check it out and make your decision based on more reliable and disinterested judgements."

2. "The enemy could be their friend, guardian" - The police can be your enemy.

3. I'm living low, Next to the bass, - This play on words may mean that what is real, the fundamental things in life (the base) are the things the writer considers to be most important.

4. I rock the party - I cause the party to be rocking [alive, invigorating, energized]

5. Clear all the madness - [I] clear out all the things that are maddening

6. "I refuse to blow a fuse" - I refuse to get angry and act violently

7. "def jam" = definitely good record (rap, tune, song)

8. "new jack" = a new kid on the block (a new artist/ rap group)

9. "and pray it ain't dope" -pray that what they believe isn't foolish
Note that "dope" can also mean "very good" in African American Vernacular English, but that's not the correct meaning in that line.

10. "Farrakhan" - Louis Farrakhan is the leader of the religious group Nation of Islam (NOI).

11. "Writers treat me like Coltrane, insane" - renown Jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane, whose music some considered to be weirdly unconventional

12. "dig me?" - Do you understand what I'm saying?

13. "Some perpetrate, they drink Clorox" - some pretend to be something they aren't and whiten [bleach (the soul; the blackness) from their words]

14. "still they try to Xerox The leader of the new school" - They try to replicate [copy off of] me, the leader of the new way of spreading correct information

15. "so here go the mike" - so here's the microphone

16. "sike" - I'm just kidding. I didn't mean what I said or did. [This is said informally, in a joking manner.]

17. "some media is the wack" - wack = weak, silly, foolish

18. "it blows me through the roof" - it really makes me angry [ as in the saying "I've had it up to here".]

19. "Some writers I know are damn devils" - very evil

20. "they must be on the pipe" - addicted to something
This may just mean that they are addicted to money and fame

21. "green, black and red, and Gold" and "red, black, and green" - Black nationalist colors

22. "No, you can't have it back, silly rabbit" - a play on the saying from a "Trixs" cereal commercial The rabbit wanted some cereal but was told "Silly rabbit, "Trixs are for kids".

23. Captain Kirk - fictitious character on "Star Trek " television series. Kirk led expeditions to new worlds in out of space, sometimes by the teams being beamed down to those planets and then being beamed back to the starship Enterprise.

24. the S1s'll straighten it out quick fast in a hurry - Sls [?]; "quick fast [and] in a hurry is a commonly heard African American phrase meaning "right away", immediately. Another way of saying that is "with a quickness".

25. "Don't worry, Flavor vision ain't blurry" - This is a witty line as Flavor, a member of Public Enemy wore very thick eyeglasses to correct his vision, but in the context of this line this meant that Flavor sees the truth of what is happening.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Colored Aristocracy": The Old Time Music Tune & How It Got Its Name

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases the Old Time Music tune entitled "Colored Aristocracy" and provides information about that tune, how it got its name,and what that name means.

The content of this post is provided for historical, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to those who composed this song and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the performers in these videos and the publishers of these videos.

From traditional tune archive
"COLORED ARISTOCRACY. AKA and see "Southern Aristocracy." Old-Time, March. USA, West Virginia. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Silberberg): AA'BB' (Brody). This late 19th century or c. 1900 tune is more correctly categorized as a cakewalk (which suggests ragtime from its syncopated rhythms) rather than a fiddle tune though the popular version played by 'revival' fiddlers has been sourced to old-time fiddler Sanford Rich, a resident of Arthurdale, West Virginia, collected in August of 1936. Arthurdale, according to Kerry Blech and Gerald Milnes, was a resettlement camp for displaced persons during the depression, a project of Eleanor Roosevelt's, and it was there at a festival of folk heritage that musicologist Charles Seeger (father of New Lost City Ramblers member Mike Seeger) recorded the Rich Family for the Library of Congress (AFS 3306 B2). Gerald Milnes has located Sanford's son, Elmer Rich, an elderly man who still fiddles and who remembers the event. Mike Seegar learned the tune at a young age by playing the aluminum recordings in his parent's house. It became one of the first tunes recorded by his group the New Lost City Ramblers in the early 1960's, and introduced the song to "revival" era fiddlers.

The second chord in the accompaniment has been variously played as both an E minor and an E major. The origin of the title remained obscure, although it was speculated that it derived from Reconstruction sentiments (or resentments) about the perceived attitude (either within or without the black community) of some African-Americans (i.e. that "Colored Aristocracy" was a gentrification of "Uppity N....r"). However, Peter Shenkin tracked the title to a piece of sheet music from a 1902 revue entitled "In Dahomey," which starred the famous African-American vaudeville duo Williams and Walker. The music (entitled "Leader of the Colored Aristocracy") is credited to Will Marion Cook, words by James Weldon Johnson (later of Harlem Renaissance fame), published by Tin-Pan-Alley composer Harry Von Tilzer. Another "Colored Aristocracy" dates from 1899 credited to one Gus W. Bernard (published by the Groene Co.); it is listed as a "Cake-walk" on the cover. Neither the Bernard tune or the one published by Tilzer is the "Colored Aristocracy" played by modern fiddlers, however. Bob Buckingham reports that a fiddling preacher of his acquaintance named Buck Rife (originally from the Beckley WV area) calls the tune "Young Man Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn (The)" and gave that he had it as a youngster learning clawhammer banjo from an uncle."...
I made minor spelling corrections for several names and for one word in this quote.

Italics were added by me to highlight those sentences.

The n word was given that way in the quote.

Explanation of terms in that passage:
The word "uppity" means "to act bigger (better) than what you really are"; "to put on airs", acting like someone who is of a higher social class than you are.

The title "Southern Aristocracy" was/is used for this tune because some non-Black people were concerned that the word "Colored" was offensive to African Americans. However, during the late 19th century until around the late 1950s, the term "Colored" and "Colored people" were considered to be the most polite and acceptable references for Black Americans. Contrary to some online information, "Colored" was used for all African Americans, and not just for light skinned African Americans who had noticeable mixed racial ancestry. In that sense "Colored" in the United States refers to a different population than "Colored" in the nation of South Africa. However, since the 1960s it is unacceptable to refer to Black Americans as "Colored" or "Colored people".

Note the retention of the term "Colored People" in the civil rights organization "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" (NAACP). In my opinion, although it would be unacceptable now to refer to that population as "Colored Aristocracy"*, the "Colored Aristocracy" title for that tune is quite acceptable.

*The appropriate term for that population would be "affluent African Americans" or "affluent Black Americans" (although "Black Americans" is a more inclusive referent than "African Americans" since a person can be a Black American but not be African American). An appropriate referent for that population would also be "affluent Americans".

About the Book "The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis" by Cyprian Clamorgan, Edited with an Introduction by Julie Winch (University of Missouri Press, 1999, originally published in 1858)
"In 1858, Cyprian Clamorgan wrote a brief but immensely readable book entitled The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis. The grandson of a white voyageur and a mulatto woman, he was himself a member of the "colored aristocracy." In a setting where the vast majority of African Americans were slaves, and where those who were free generally lived in abject poverty, Clamorgan's "aristocrats" were exceptional people. Wealthy, educated, and articulate, these men and women occupied a "middle ground." Their material advantages removed them from the mass of African Americans, but their race barred them from membership in white society.

"The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis" is both a serious analysis of the social and legal disabilities under which African Americans of all classes labored and a settling of old scores. Somewhat malicious, Clamorgan enjoyed pointing out the foibles of his friends and enemies, but his book had a serious message as well. "He endeavored to convince white Americans that race was not an absolute, that the black community was not a monolith, that class, education, and especially wealth, should count for something."

Despite its fascinating insights into antebellum St. Louis, Clamorgan's book has been virtually ignored since its initial publication"...

From the book Slave Life in St. Louis
"Urban slaves [in St. Louis, Missouri] were not isolated. In 1835 an African American church was founded in St. Louis. Slaves and free blacks began to attend their own church, away from whites and white influences. Sundays were days of rest for the city’s slaves, and they gathered together not only to attend services but also to spread news, gossip, and even hear readings from the newspaper given by free persons of color. In addition, many of the city’s elite persons of color owned barber emporiums where important and wealthy white males gathered....

In addition to the over 1,000 free blacks in St. Louis who owned small businesses, were laborers or worked odd jobs, a certain elite group of African-American St. Louisans styled “the Colored Aristocracy” were large landowners and businesspersons, many descended from some of St. Louis’ earliest residents. Several owned the large barber emporiums, while others owned drayage businesses which moved goods from steamboat to steamboat on the levee. Still others, like Madame Pelagie Rutgers, owned huge tracts of land which they sold at great profit as the city expanded. The “Colored Aristocracy” of St. Louis had its own social season and debutante balls. A member of this social class, Cyprian Clamorgan, wrote a book in 1858 called the Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis, in which he profiled the group.”...

From Origin: Colored Aristocracy, posted by Q, Date: 24 Jun 09 - 01:58 PM
"Clamorgan, "Colored Aristocracy in St. Louis," further note. Publication date 1858.
This from the discussion of the University of Missouri reprint of 1999.
"When Cyprian Clamorgan wrote The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis" in 1858, he described what it took to "make it" as an anomaly in that city. He recognized that, in St. Louis as in antebellum communities throughout the United States, to be free and of African descent meant that one did not fit into a society that assumed that black people were meant to be slaves and that only white people could know freedom. Yet Clamorgan observed that there existed in the Mound City "a certain circle: a peculiar class- the elite of the colored race" who attained their high status through "wealth, education or natural ability". And the greatest of these was wealth.

Julie Winch, who annotated the reprint of the Clamorgan book, [indicated that it] "makes a valuable contribution to the study of free blacks."

Clamorgan was a mulatto, a descendant of the voyageur and slave trader Jacques Clamorgan and one of his "Negro wives." A grandson of this man, Cyprian Clamorgan "sought to benefit financially from the sale of Jacque's land claims and the marketing of a literary challenge to the "white notion that black people were all alike because they were black.".

Colored Aristocracy [link to the book]

St. Louis of the 1850s was a boom city, a gateway to the west and to the Mississippi, with industry and monied families.

As a side note, some years ago I was at an auction of American coin silver, in which I was interested at the time. Work of St. Louis silversmiths of the 1850s was a feature, and I remember several pieces- tableware, pitchers, candlesticks- marked with the initials of one of the black societies of the time. A dealer friend if [sic] mine bought most of the pieces, for resale in the States
The term "mulatto" (a Black person of identifiable mixed racial ancestry, often considered to be a person of Black/White ancestry) hasn't been an acceptable referent for formal or informal use in the United States since at least the 1950s.

While that Mudcat discussion thread makes for interesting reading, it also includes what I consider to be disturbing, cringe worthy comments alluding to or openly chuckling about the "uppity N__" term that is still sometimes used to refer to affluent Black people instead of the referent "Colored aristocracy". For example, one commenter indicated that she refers to "Colored Aristocracy" tune as "the US president's song" - alluding to African American President Barack Obama being an "uppity N__".

Example #1: Colored Aristocracy - Elmer Rich fiddle

Old Time Fiddle Music from West Virginia, Uploaded on Nov 17, 2008

Elmer Rich at the 2008 WVU Mountaineer Week fiddle contest.

Elmer played the tune Colored Aristocracy. He and Tom O'Brien tell the story of how this tune spread from Elmer's Uncle Sanford Rich to being played by musicians around the world.

Example #2: taj on banjo.MOD [Taj Mahal]

manomite01's channel, Uploaded on Aug 19, 2010

Example #3: Sankofa Strings perform Colored Aristocracy in Saxapahaw, North Carolina

ccdrops Uploaded on Jun 28, 2006

From*Version*=1&*entries*=0 a review of the album & record "Colored Aristocracy" by Sankofa Strings [2007]
By Andre M. "brnn64"on March 9, 2010
"This is actually by the Sankofa Sounds, the predecessor to the CCDs [Carolina Chocolate Drops] who formed in 2005 after their meeting at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone NC (as Black history fans know, "Sankofa" is a Ghanaian word that loosely translates into the appreciation of the past being the foundation of the future). The title refers to a song from the 1890s that was performed in one of the legendary Bert Williams' musical comedies about the emerging Black middle class and the cover pictures are of the groups' direct ancestors. My only minor complaint is that this instrumental version does not include the original thought-provoking lyrics. But this is no real big deal as the album itself is so enjoyable. This album also has heavy input from charter member Sule Greg Wilson, who would later make occasional appearances on the CCD cds"...
Actually, there are no lyrics to the tune "Colored Aristocracy" although some performers have made up lyrics to that tune.

I read at discussion about that song in which a commenter mentioned that the song "Devil Woman Marie" was sung with the "Colored Aristocracy" tune, but that song "seems to be a modern lyric composed by Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders". Those lyrics are included in that Mudcat discussion thread on "Colored Aristocracy" that is given above.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Spirituals "Blow Gable Blow" & "Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part III of a three part series that showcases three examples out of a number of African American Spirituals that mention the angel Gabriel blowing his trumpet.

This post provides a text example of the Spiritual "Blow Gable Blow" as well as two text examples of the Spiritual "Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel."

Click for Part I of this series. Part I showcases the Spiritual "In That Great Gettin' Up Mornin'".

Click for Part II of this series. Part II showcases the Spiritual "I'll Hear That Trumpet Sound".

The content of this post is provided for historical, cultural, religious, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to those who composed this song and thanks to all those who collected this song. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the performers in these videos and the publishers of these videos.

Editor's Comment:
The song "Blow Gabriel Blow" is featured in the award winning musical "Anything Goes" which was first produced in 1934. It seems obvious to me that idea for that song- if not the lyrics- comes from the earlier Spirituals "Blow Gable Blow" and "Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel." Click
for information about that play. Also, click for the lyrics to the "Blow Gabriel Blow" (from "Anything Goes").

"Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel" is also the name of a Rock song that has nothing to do with the Spiritual except its title.

From The Negro and His Songs: A Study Of Typical Negro Songs In The South, edited by Howard W. Odum (Oxford University Press, 1925, pp. 85-87)[Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2011]
"The "hallelujah" so common among the old songs is less frequently heard now; it will be found to some degree in the shouting songs and songs of heaven.


Not least among the warnings to the sinner were to be reckoned the times when "Gable" should blow
his horn. "Gable" has been proverbial among the Negroes; Gabriel and the trumpet are, however,
significant in the same way among the whites in the vulgar reference. Many ideas of "Gable's" trumpet have appeared in the Negro songs. Sometimes it is "blow louder," Gable!" "How loud mus' I blow?"
The song "Blow, Gable, Blow" has changed considerably from the old plantation songs of the same

Blow, Gable, at the judgment,
Blow, Gable, at the judgment bar,

For my God is a talkin' at the judgment,
For my God is a talkin' at the judgment bar.

Now won't you blow, Gable, at the judgment?
For my God is a preachin' at the judgment bar.

Now won't you blow, Gable, at the judgment bar?
Well, I’m goin' to meet my preacher at the judgment bar

In the same manner, making a four-line stanza of each one, are sung, "Goin' to meet brother," (mother, sister, etc.) and also, "My God is a walkin' (tryin', etc.) at the judgment bar." So, too, it is "prayin' time (mournin' time, singin' time, shoutin' time, tryin' time, etc.) at the judgment bar." This song may be given as the last one of the class peculiar to warnings and admonitions to sinners. It closes with still other verses that give vivid pictures of the judgment bar.

Well, sinners, keep a prayin' at the judgment bar.

Well, it's too late to pray at the judgment bar.

Why didn't you take heed at the judgment?

Some come crippled at judgment.

O, I look for my mother, (brother, sister) at de judgment."
"The judgment bar" is most often given now as "the judgment seat" or the "judgment table".

From: Q
Date: 20 Jan 07 - 10:18 PM

Surprised I couldn't find "Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel," which appears in Allen, 1867, and a fine arrangement for low voice in "Seventy Negro Spirituals," 1926, William Arms Fisher.


De talles' tree in Paradise,
De Christian call de tree of life;
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To de new Jerusalem.
Blow your trumpet, Gabriel,
Blow louder, louder;
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To de new Jerusalem.
Paul and Silas, bound in jail,
Sing God's praise both night and day;
And I hope, etc.

As sung Port Royal Islands. Variant from Virginia:

Paul and Silas, bound in jail,
Christians pray both night and day.
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To my new Jerusalem.
So blow de trumpet, Gabriel,
Blow de trumpet louder,
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To my new Jerusalem.

Score provided for both variants. Allen, William Francis, "Slave Songs of the United States"* 1867, no. 4, p. 3.

Arr. G. A. Grant-Schaefer, 1926

De talles' tree in Paradise,
De Christian call de tree of life,
An' I hope dat trump will blow me home
To my New Jerusalem.
De talles' tree in Paradise,
De Christian call de tree of life,
An' I hope dat trump will blow me home
To my New Jerusalem.

So blow de trumpet, Gabriel,
Blow de trumpet,
An' I hope dat trump will blow me home
To my New Jerusalem.

O Paul and Silas, bound in jail,
Sing God's praises night and day,
An' I hope dat trump will blow me home
To my New Jerusalem.
O Paul and Silas, bound in jail,
Sing God's praises night and day,
An' I hope dat trump will blow me home
To my New Jerusalem-

So blow de trumpet, Gabriel,
Blow de trumpet,
An' I hope dat trump will blow me home
To my New Jerusalem.

Pp. 8-11, full score for low voice. Edit. William Arms Fisher, "Seventy Negro Spirituals," Oliver Ditson Company, 1926.

Not in "African-American Heritage Hymnal," GIA Publ., Gen. Ed., Dolores Carpenter, 2001. Not in Cleveland and Nix, "Songs of Zion," Abingdon Press, 1981.

*Slave Songs of the United States edited by William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison (published in 1867)

"My Opinion About Using 19th Century Dialect While Singing Spirituals"

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