Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Sambo" In Examples Of Songs From Thomas W. Talley's "Negro Folk Rhymes"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post, Part II of three part series on the word "sambo", presents examples of the name "Sambo" in songs/rhymes that are included in Thomas W. Talley's 1922 book Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise & Otherwise.

Click for Part I of this series. Part I presents excerpts of quotes about the origins and meanings of the word (including the name) "sambo".

Click for Part III of this series. Part III showcases Caribbean folk songs that include the word "sambo".

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and cultural, purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the composers of these songs and thanks to Thomas W. Talley for collecting them and editing a book about them.

These examples are presented in alphabetical order based on the titles that Thomas Talley used for them. They are takeen from the digitalized version of that book that is found at From

I've added italics to highlight the lines in these examples that include "sambo".

The pejorative word that is commonly now known as "the n word" was fully spelled out in these examples, but is either given with asterisks or is given as [the n word]. I recommend that the n word be changed to "black man" or "man" in present day usage.

Note: In some of these examples, "Sambo" may not have been the name of the man being addresses, but instead may have been a namee that was used by White people that was used to address or refer to any Black man.

Example #1: BUCK-EYED RABBIT! WHOOPEE! [P. 175]
Dat Squir'l, he's a cunnin' thing;
He tote a bushy tail.
He jes lug off Uncle Sambo's co'n,
An' heart it on a rail.

Dat Squir'l, he's a cunnin' thing;
An' so is ole Jedge B'ar.
Br'er Rabbit's gone an' los' his tail
'Cep' a liddle bunch of ha'r.

Buckeyed Rabbit! Whoopee!
Buckeyed Rabbit! Ho!
Buckeyed Rabbit! Whoopee!
Squir'l's got a long way to go.
Buck eyed= a term that either meant "big eyes" or eyes that protrude

Uncle = During slavery in the United States south, the title "Mr" [and Mrs. or Miss were usually reserved for White malees and White females. However, note that "Mistah" is used in example #2,

Instead of Mr., the title "Uncle" was used for eldeerly Black men, and the title "Aunt" was used for elderly Black women.

co'n = corn

Jedge b'ar = judge [?] bear

liddle = little

ha'r = hair

Example #2: HE LOVES SUGAR AND TEA [84, 85]
Mistah Buster, he loves sugar an' tea.
Mistah Buster, he loves candy.
Mistah Buster, he's a Jim-dandy!
He can swing dem gals so handy.

Charlie's up an' Charlie's down.
Charlie's fine an' dandy.
Ev'ry time he goes to town,
He gits dem gals stick candy.

Dat Ni&&ah, he love sugar an' tea.
Dat Ni&&ah love dat candy.[Pg 85]
Fine Ni&&ah! He can wheel 'em 'round,
An' swing dem ladies handy.

Mistah Sambo, he love sugar an' tea.
Mistah Sambo love his candy.
Mistah Sambo; he's dat han'some man

What goes wid sister Mandy.

Example #3: MY MULE [p. 19]
Las' Saddy mornin' Mosser said:
"Jump up now, Sambo, out'n bed.
Go saddle dat mule, an' go to town;
An' bring home Mistiss' mornin' gown."
las' = last

Mosser = Master

Mistiss= Mistress [Master's wife]

Example #4: PROMISES OF FREEDOM [p. 25]
My ole Mistiss promise me,
W'en she died, she'd set me free.
She lived so long dat 'er head got bal',
An' she give out'n de notion a dyin' at all.

My ole Mistiss say to me:
"Sambo, I'se gwine ter set you free."
But w'en dat head git slick an' bal',
De Lawd couldn' a' killed 'er wid a big green maul.

My ole Mistiss never die,
Wid 'er nose all hooked an' skin all dry.
But my ole Miss, she's somehow gone,
An' she lef' "Uncle Sambo" a-hillin' up co'n.

Ole Mosser lakwise promise me,
W'en he died, he'd set me free.
But ole Mosser go an' make his Will
Fer to leave me a-plowin' ole Beck still.

Yes, my ole Mosser promise me;
But "his papers" didn' leave me free.
A dose of pizen he'ped 'im along.
May de Devil preach 'is f┼źner'l song.
Gwine= going to

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1 comment:

  1. The name "Sam" is also found in Negro Folk Rhymes much more than any other male name. Here are the titles and page numbers for the rhymes [songs[ that include the name "Sam":
    Does Money Talk? [p.113]

    My Sick Wife [p. 55]

    Sam Is A Clever Fellow [P. 151]


    "We Are All The Go" [p. 52]
    (I think "we are all the go" meant the same thing as "We're really great". A contemporary African American vernacular form of that sentiment is "We got it going on.")

    In addition to the use of the name "Sam" in that 1922 book of Black American secular songs,,the rhyme "Strong Hands" [p. 167] and thee rhyme "Jawbone" contain the name "Samson".

    I wonder if Black Americans particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries,gave male children the name "Sam' because it was same as the beginning syllable of "Sambo".* Of course, the name "Samson" may have been given because of the Biblical story about Samson's strength.

    *I learned in school that during slavery hite slave masters and mistresses named Black babies who were born in their plantations. However, I've learned since then that that wasn't always true.( i also learned in school that enslaved Black peeoeple in the United States south didn't have any last names. That also wasn't always true,)