Saturday, September 12, 2020

5 little monkeys Remix tiktok (with an animated video of that rhyme & comments about reciting rhymes that have racist histories)

Darryl Slaughter jr., May 30, 2030

It’s a father daughter thing😂❤️

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post showcases a tic toc video of a father and his daughter "rapping" to the children's rhyme "Five Little Monkeys" (Notice the chunky gold chain necklaces which have become a symbol of Hip Hop rapping).

This video serves as an introduction to excerpts of the content of and comments from a 2014 pancocojams post entitled "T
he Racist Roots Of The "Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed" Chant"

Additional content on this subject is also found this 2020 post, including an embedded YouTube video that I believe is 
a non-racist animated video of the "Five Little Monkeys" rhyme without other objectionable content such as the characters laughing at those who fall down and bump their heads.

The content of this post is presented for cultural purposes only.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in these videos and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube. 

The "Five Little Monkeys" has been a widely known rhyme in the United States for centuries.

I believe that the main reason why people teach non-offensive versions of the "Five Little Monkeys" rhyme is that this rhyme demonstrates the fun of rhythmic recitation while it teaches children how to subtract.

This is a response to the question: "What is the origin of The Five Little Monkeys [chant]"?
respondent: Books and Literature SupervisorMyrab51
"It derives from the original first verse of "Shortenin' Bread": Two little (insert N-word here) Lyin' in bed One of 'em sick An' de odder mos' dead.Call for de doctorAn' de doctor said,"Feed dem darkies on shortenin' bread" We all know the chorus: Mammy's little baby loves Shortenin', shortenin',Mammy's little baby love shortenin' bread. Unfortunate, but true.

Like many children's rhymes and songs, the rhythm of the verse was too catchy for people to abandon, so parents/teachers simply changed the characters and the action. "Monkeys" belies this... unfortunately monkeys and apes have often been used as stand-in characters for African-Americans. This rhyme was beginning to be cleansed as early as the late 1930s. My 77-year-old mother heard "Five Little Monkeys" on my child's Baby Genius CD recently and said "Monkeys? It's 'Five Little Darkies' and the doctor says to feed them shortenin' bread!" So the N word was already out of favor in the northeast US by the time she was a child, and "darkies" was preferred for both the beginning and ending phrase."
This quote was reformatted for this post.

Here's my note about that comment:
According to "There is no known origin of the song, due to it being a modern nursery rhyme. But, the song has similar lyrics and tune to the first verse of the folk song "Shortnin' Bread." "

"Shortnin Bread" is also probably the source for the American children's rhyme  "Ten Little Indians" (where chanters count down to "no little Indians" and some tragic ending happens to each Indian). However, the tune for "Ten Little Indians" is different from the tune for "Shortnin' Bread"/"Five Little Monkeys".

Tiffany M.B. Anderson wrote an interesting and informative article about that post-Civil War "coon song" which was entitled "Ten Little [n word plural]." Here's the beginning paragraph of that online abstract:
"During Reconstruction in the 1860s, the proud Confederate states found themselves in a place of subordination. Forced to concede their free slave labor, the former citizens of the Confederacy refused to fold their ideology of the inferiority of the freed slaves. A “comic” song titled “Ten Little [n word plural*]" circulated through the United States in Minstrel shows and children’s nursery rhyme books in keeping with this ideology."
*That word is fully spelled out in that abstract.
With regard to the proliferation of rhymes that enumerate the tragic endings of people or other characters counting down from 10 to 1, read this comment:

Subject: RE: Origins: Five Little Monkeys
From: Senoufou
Date: 11 May 17 - 04:34 AM

"There's apparently a German version of this song with the words, "Zehn kleine Negerlein"., which most unfortunately points to a racist origin.

From the late forties onward, I had never heard this 'Five Little Monkeys' song in UK, so I imagine it's of USA origin.
However, Agatha Christie wrote the murder novel (1939) which has been hurriedly changed to 'And Then There Were None'.
And we did chant 'Eenie Meenie Minie Mo", which has the 'N' word in the next line. So we weren't saints."

Here's a comment about the origin of the "Five Little Monkeys" rhyme from

Comment #3
From "Five Children's Songs With Racist Histories", posted by Angele, April 29, 2014
GB Harris, May 6, 2014 at 3:01 pm
"I’m not a Mom but I came across this website to find some activities for my little sister. I had heard from my grandmother about some of the songs and phrases that we think of as “modern” today actually had their roots from several centuries ago & blatantly included racist, sexist, etc language. I had heard of the racist version of “Eenie Meenie Mini Moe” but the last one “Short’nin Bread” made my mouth drop because I recognized it as “Three Little Monkeys”, a song I was taught in private school no less. To my horror I realized N-word was replaced by monkeys, a veiled racial epithet to refer to black people once again. I’m torn between never wanting to hear these songs again to wanting to incorporate this into a class children learn by elementary. I think the more you learn about the past, the more prepared you are, as long as you do not wallow in it. Growing I think my family could have helped more about being completely honest with how I as a black woman was going to encounter racism and the varied ways I could combat it. Either way, I am learning for myself, but a more open dialogue would have helped with my development."

Here's a comment that I wrote on July 20, 2014 in response to a query about whether versions of the "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" rhyme should ever be taught to children or used by children, even if those versions don't include "the n word: "Ask ARP: What should I do about nursery rhymes with a racist past?" Posted on October 24, 2007 by Carmen Van Kerckhove [website no longer available]

"More than seven years after this post was published, I happened upon it while searching for discussion and I’m surprised that there aren’t any responses to your legitimate query.

As an African American community folklorist who is particularly interested in playground rhymes, I’m aware that some playground rhymes – like other folk material – have problematic, and even quite offensive early versions. However, I don’t think that means that people should avoid teaching and sharing with children those politically correct versions which were purposely made to substitute for those offensive versions, or which developed non-racist variants by happen chance.

For what it’s worth, I learned “Eeny Meenie Miney Mo” with the “catch a tiger by the toe” line when I was growing up in the mid 1950s in Atlantic City, New Jersey. And it wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I learned that “tiger” (or some other word) was a replacement for the “the n word”. From reading other online discussions about this song, including your comment, it seems that a number of people who know that “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo” choosing it rhyme don’t know that it once included the “n word”."

I’m not encouraging people to forget the history of rhymes or songs that contained offensive referents. I believe that it would be beneficial for children of certain ages -at least pre-teens- and adults to formally and informally study & discuss this subject as an introduction to and auxiliary resource for the study of anti-racism, multiculturalism, and folklore etc.

What I’m much more concerned about is the fact that some playground rhymes are still being recited today that are racist- for example, some examples of “I Went To A Chinese Restaurant”. I strongly believe that those rhymes shouldn’t be recited, and I would have no problem whatsoever contacting the school or community center if I learned that a teacher or staff person was teaching my young granddaughter those offensive versions of those rhymes. Her parents and I would redirect my grandchild in an age appropriate way if she learned an offensive version of that rhyme or if she learned any other offensive rhyme or song from her friends, from television, or the internet or elsewhere.

However, I would have no problem – and I believe that her parents would also have no problem – if she recited a non-racist version of a rhyme or a song that had a racist version in its past or its present.

I agree with the principal who had concerns about “sensitizing a child to something that we cannot quite explain in full as there is no context for the child – we can’t tell them what the old words used to be.”

Just saying that “Some examples of that rhyme have hurtful words” is too vague unless we also say what those words.  And I don’t think that adults need to do that unless the children are older or if the children are heard using those words or hear someone else use those words and ask us about them."

Here's another response I wrote [no date given] to the question "If "Five Little Monkeys" and "Shortnin Bread" do indeed have racist roots, does that mean that people who are anti-racist shouldn't sing those songs and teach them to children?

I believe that current versions of "Five Little Monkeys", "Shornin Bread" and "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" may be acceptable for singing and viewing with children in spite of its racist origin/and racist adaptations if their drawings or other visuals aren't stereotypical, and/or if those versions don't include any offensive words or gestures, and/or or if those versions don't contain other hurtful content such as the characters laughing at someone who falls out of the bed.

As of September 12, 2020 there are a total of 46 comments in the discussion thread for the 2014 pancocojams post entitled

This section quotes some of those comments. Numbers have been assigned for those selected comments for referencing purposes only. These comments have been reformatted for this post to enhance their readability.
1. Anonymous, February 21, 2016 at 10:30 PM
As a non white parent I have been quite appalled by the more recent depictions of the so-called 5 little monkeys being made very much in the image of black people. I think this is no accident at all. I feel that black and non-white parents as a whole should really monitor the usage of these so-called youtube nursery rhymes paying particular attention to the imagery being used (e.g. Depictions of black people as criminals, monkeys, wolves etc).

It has been my experience that these utterly racist depictions normally occur near the middle of the longer (say 50 minute) runs of nursery rhymes and they are easy to miss unless you are sitting with the child and looking at the screen with them. It is depressing to watch such horrible Jim crow style programming being wrapped into a sweet modern looking format. As a parent of color I feel that these nursery rhymes can be used to promote white supremacy in a very deceptive way. I thank the author of this blog for pointing out the origins of some of these seemingly harmless songs. This has been a constructive dialogue."

2. Azizi Powell, February 21, 2016 at 11:06 PM
"Thanks anonymous for your comment. And you're welcome.
 As a grandmother of a two year old, I've also experienced what you wrote about racist depictions of Black people occurring in long series of nursery rhymes and other children's songs. And I agree that those depictions would be missed if an adult wasn't sitting with the child and watching the screen with them. I offer this series as an egregious example: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed | Nursery Rhymes Collection | Nursery Rhymes Dave and Ava

And although I usually LOVE chuchu TV's children's series (and my granddaughter loves those videos too), I dislike their version of Five Little Monkeys:
 In addition to what I believe are negative racial depictions, I'm also concerned with some versions of "Five Little Monkeys" which show the other monkeys laughing when one of them falls out the bed and bumps his or her head."...
This comment continued with my sharing that I couldn't find the best version of "Five Little Monkeys" that I liked watching with my grandchild. In a later comment in that discussion thread I wrote that I found that video and I shared that link. This is the animated video that is embedded in this post.

3. Anonymous, February 21, 2016 at 11:28 PM
"Ms. Powell,
Thank you again. This is very constructive and informative. Hopefully more people can be made aware so that we can guard against some of the stereotypical programming that seems to perpetuate itself across generations. It really seems like the nursery rhyme monkey imagery on YouTube could fall right in line with some of the minstrel type imagery of the late 1800's.

Again, thank you for the information, discussion, and helpful links.
Almost all of the comments in that 2014 pancocojams post refer to the Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed | Nursery Rhymes Collection | Nursery Rhymes Dave and Ava video whose link I gave in my comment. I noted that the monkey family in that video are drawn as monkeys with stereotypical Black features such as the girls hair being in braids sticking out all over her head and ribbons at the end of the braids. This is an exaggeration of a hairstyle is similar to one that young African American girls used to wear and is similar to the multiple beaded braided hairstyle that some young African American girls (and some Black girls in other nations) wear today.

In that same comment I shared that I took that Dave and Ava series off my list of videos that my granddaughter could watch and I wondered if I was alone in doing that.

 Commenter Molly Stern Coaching wrote on August 20, 2016 at 1:03 AM
"No you're not alone! Especially when the two white kids look perfectly human and all the other animals just look like animals. Then all of a sudden there is the monkey family that definitely looks like it's suppose to be a human-animal cross. It's awful, it's off our list too."

As a matter of record, several commenters informed me that that series was published in the Ukraine. 

In 2017 several commenters wrote that the publishers of that video series had introduced a Black character and had removed those stereotypical drawings of monkeys. I watched some videos from that series and published a comment in the discussion thread of that pancocojams post thanking those publishers for those changes.  Those comments can be found in that discussion thread.


Five Little Monkeys | Family Sing Along - Muffin Songs

Muffin Songs, November 18, 2012
I like this video because the monkeys aren't drawn with stereotypical Black features/ hair styles and the characters don't laugh when someone falls out of bed and bumps his or her head.

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Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. RE: the "Five Little Monkeys | Family Sing Along - Muffin Songs" the reasoning for liking this depiction seems flawed. The characters don't laugh, but a distinct sound of chittering laughter can be heard each time a monkey falls off the bed. Notably, the racial dynamic is different, but only because the monkeys look white, which looks similar to what Roald Dahl did with the Oompa Loompa people in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It seems odd to me: why are we trying to preserve this song, when there are other songs that teach subtraction with syncopated rhythm like "Five Little Ducks" which don't delight in the injury of anyone? Do we believe the father and daughter who are doing this new version of Five little monkeys know the history of this song? It concerns me that this continued process of substitution will only further white-wash the song, leading to further realizations of horror at the original lyrics, and parents and children less capable of seeing racism and addressing it early and often. I think we need to encourage people to remember racism and be prepared to address it, even if they consider children not fully capable of understanding the history in its entirety. I really appreciate GB Harris' comment that "the more you learn about the past, the more prepared you are, as long as you do not wallow in it. Growing I think my family could have helped more about being completely honest with how I as a black woman was going to encounter racism and the varied ways I could combat it."

    1. Thanks for your comment Jezz B.

      I appreciate your sharing your opinions about the embedded Family Sing Along - Muffin Songs.

      I don't agree that the monkeys in that video "look White" and I didn't hear the chattering you noted when a monkey fell down.

      As to your larger points, I think it's doubtful that the father knows the racist history of the "Five Little Monkeys" song and, and even more doubtful that his daughter knows that song's history- and given her age, I'd be really surprised if she knew this.

      I think that while it would be good if older children, pre-teens, teenagers, and adults know the history of the songs they sing, and-in particular-know about the racist history of certain songs, I don't think it's a requirement for singing any song.

      Why certain songs and rhymes are preserved rather than others is a complicated subject that-in part- is influenced by whether those songs/rhymes are picked up by popular media and/or a celebrity or celebrities.

      I agree with you that Black families and all families need to be more honest about racism, including helping children develop coping skills for the racism that they are bound to encounter - I include families that don't include People of Color since those families need to be honest about the realities of personal and institutional racism and help their children consider how they react to racism and other forms of bigotry that they witness if not experience for themselves.