Edited by Azizi Powell
This post provides information about the term "jim crow", lyrics of Leadbelly's song "Jim Crow Blues", as well as a sound file & a video of selected performances of that song.
The content of this post is provided for historical, folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
WHAT "JIM CROW" MEANS
The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states of the former Confederacy, with, starting in 1890, a "separate but equal" status for African Americans. The separation in practice led to conditions that tended to be inferior to those provided for white Americans, systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages.-snip-
A person of color being "jim crowed" meant/means being treated in a discriminatory manner [being treated worse than White people in general because of one's race/ethnicity.]
A "Jim Crow town" is one whose White residents had discriminatory laws & customs.
COMMENTS ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM "JIM CROW"
The origin of the name "Jim Crow" is obscure but may have evolved from the use of the pejorative "crow" to refer to African Americans in the 1730s. Jim may be derived from "Jimmy", an old cant term for a crow, which is based on a pun for the tool "crow" which today we call a "crowbar". Before 1900 crowbars were called "crows" and a short crowbar was and still is called a "jimmy", a typical burglar's tool.-snip-
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 they cannot fly, but wheel and jump helplessly near the ground where the farmer can kill them with a club.
Click that link for information about & lyrics to the 1828 USA minstrel song "Jump Jim Crow".
From http://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090505044409AAEFfdV comment posted by d_r_siva 2009
The reality of the term [Jim Crow] has nothing at all to do with crows, crow’s feet, or crow’s beaks. The term comes to English via the Nordic languages….probably as far back as Viking settlements in England.
The term refers to a cow’s foot. In Danish a cow is a kue. In Norwegian a cow is a ku. In Swedish a cow is called a ko and is pronounced “coo” like a dove sounds. And a crowbar today in Swedish is a kofot….a “cow’s foot.” And one must mention that the bar’s pulling end [two fingers around a nail] resemble a cow’s foot and thus the English derivation of crowbar has nothing to do at all with the crow, but with cows or a ko. Our crowbar is named after a cow’s foot. This is the true etymology of the word.
One false etymology is that the term crowbar derives from Jim Crow and that they were used by blacks to perform menial tasks, giving it racist origins. Jim Crow was alive at least 400 years after the origin of the crowbar, so it is highly unlikely that he had anything to do with its name. This has been discredited by Snopes.
A crow has a powerful pointed beak with which it can, crows being very smart birds, pry open darn near anything it wants. So when humans invented a long iron bar with a hooked end to pry things open, they named it after the clever crow. In fact, the original crowbar (known simply as a "crow" back in 1400) sported one end shaped into a beak, rather than the flattened surface seen on modern crowbars.
LYRICS: JIM CROW BLUES [1930?]
(Huddie William Ledbetter (January 1888 – December 6, 1949)[stage name: Lead Belly; usually given as Leadbelly)
Gotta get together let it __
don’t be no stone
Well we’ll all be in the same boat rather* ["together"]?
Okay now you gonna want this “Jim Crow Boys” enn
That man mus makes a man wear out his shoes when I give en the Jim Crow playin. **
Bunk Johnson told me too, This old Jim Crowism dead bad luck for me and you
I been traveling, i been traveling from shore to shore
Everywhere I have been I find some old Jim Crow
One thing, people, I want everybody to know
You're gonna find some Jim Crow, every place you go
Down in Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia's a mighty good place to go
And get together, break up this old Jim Crow
I told everybody over the radio
Make up their mind and get together, break up this old Jim Crow
I want to tell you people something that you don't know
It's a lotta Jim Crow in a moving picture show
I'm gonna sing this verse, I ain't gonna sing no more
Please get together, break up this old Jim Crow
Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pejC6hFJcVM&feature=related [Video #3 below]
*Transcription of the first part of the film clip by Azizi Powell.
The first three lines appear to be the end of another song that Leadbelly sang before starting "Jim Crow Blues". The last two lines prior to the actual song are Leadbelly's introduction on that occassion for his performance of "Jim Crow Blues". My "translation" of the last sentence Leadbelly said is:
"That man's music [that song/my playing that song] makes a man wear out his shoes [dancing] when I play "Jim Crow Blues".
Additions and/or corrections to this transcription are welcomed.
Example #1: Jim Crow Blues- Leadbelly
Uploaded by 427monkeyman on Jun 9, 2010
This is a protest song from the 1930's written and preformed by the great blues musician Leadbelly. For those who do not know, the Jim Crow Laws where laws that prevented African Americans and other minorities from having the same rights as Whites. Many of the pictures are of blues musicians and civil rights activists such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and W. E. B. Du Bois. This video is intended to be anti-racist so I do NOT want to see comments saying I am.
Example #2 - Odetta - Jim Crow Blues
Uploaded by BilouBeBe on Jul 13, 2011
"Jim Crow Blues"
Performed by Odetta Holmes (2003)
originally performed by Lead Belly (1930)
From the movie: Lightning In a Bottle: A One Night History of the Blues
concert: New York's Radio City Music Hall (February 2003)
Director : Antoine Fuqua
Executive Producer: Martin Scorsese
Music Director: Steve Jordan
Producer: Alex Gibney & Margaret Bodde
Click http://uncensoredhistoryoftheblues.purplebeech.com/2009/09/show-43-jim-crow-blues.html for information about Blues songs which include the term "Jim Crow". Included in that post is a lyric excerpt of the 1925 song "Northbound Blues" performed by by Maggie Jones which contains the phrase “Jim Crow town”. That post also features an excerpt of a 1927 Blues song by Cow Cow Davenport which is also entitled "Jim Crow Blues".
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/09/john-crow-part-i-what-john-crow-means.html for Part I of a three part Pancocojams series on the Jamaican character/symbol "John Crow".
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT & THANKS
Thanks to the composer & performers of this song. Thanks also to those whose comments I quoted and to the uploaders of these videos.
Thanks for visiting pancocojams.
Viewer comments are welcomed.