Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Racial Referents (Including Color Referents) For Afro-Jamaicans In Walter Jekylls' 1907 Book "Jamaican Songs And Stories..."

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest revision: October 22, 2021

This is Part I of a three part pancocojams series on Walter Jekyll's 1907 book entitled Jamaican Song and Story: Annancy stories, digging sings, ring tunes, and dancing tunes.

This post provides some examples of the general referents that Walter Jekyll uses in this book for Jamaicans with some African descent (the referents "negro", "Negro", and "Black"). 

This pancocojams post also presents examples from that book of songs that include what is commonly called "the n word", as well as examples of songs that include the racial referent  "Mulatto" of "Sambo" and the geographical referent "Bungo". In addition, this pancocojams post presents examples of songs from Jekyll's 1907 book that include color references for Afro-Jamaicans. These examples are from every section of that book except the "Annancy tales". 

Click for Part II of this pancocojams series. That series is entitled ""Little Sally Water" & A Few Other Examples Of Familiar Singing Games & Other Songs In Walter Jekyll's 1907 Book "Jamaican Song And Stories".

Click for Part III of this series. That post is entitled "Some Additonal Notes & Song Examples From Walter Jekyll's 1907 Book "Jamaican Song & Story...". 

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Walter Jekyll and all those who shared this folkloric material with him. Thanks to all others who are quoted in this post and thanks to Project Gutenberg for publishing this manuscript online.
Click that is entitled "
Little Sally Walter" & A Few Other Examples Of Familiar Singing Games & Other Songs In Walter Jekyll's 1907 Book "Jamaican Song And Stories".

"Walter Jekyll (27 November 1849, Bramley, Surrey, England –17 February 1929, Bower Hall, Riverside,Hanover, Jamaica), was an English clergyman who renounced his religion and became a planter in Jamaica, where he collected and published songs and stories from the local African-Caribbean community.[1]

….Jekyll was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, who borrowed the family name for his famous novella Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Jamaican Song and Story

Jekyll published Jamaican Song and Story: Annancy Stories, Digging Sings, Ring Tunes, and Dancing Tunes, in (1906). with introduction by Alice Werner and appendices by Charles Samuel Myers and Lucy Broadwood.

He also provided the introduction and footnotes to Claude McKay's Songs of Jamaica (1912).[3]”…


Walter Jekyll's book "Jamaican Song and Story: Annancy Stories, Digging Sings, Ring Tunes, and Dancing Tunes" provides some examples of Afro-Caribbean folklore from the late 19th century and very early 20th century.  Jekyll quotes the "men and boys in his employ" for all of the song examples and story examples that he published in that book.

That manuscript is available online as an Ebook published by The Project Gutenberg. The release date for that Ebook is February 26, 2011 [EBook #35410]. The publishing date for that book is given in the Gutenberg Project Ebook as 1904 and 1907. Wikipedia gives 1906 as the publishing date. 1906 is given as the date for Walter Jekyll’s Preface for that book. I’ve decided to use 1907 as that book's publishing date, while recognizing the other dates that have been mentioned.

These examples in this pancocojams compilation of Walter Jekyll’s book are from the "Digging Sings", "Ring Tunes", and Dancing Tunes” categories of Walter Jekyll’s book. 

The contemporary term for "Digging Sings" is "work songs" and the contemporary term for "Ring tunes" is "circle singing game songs".

This pancocojams post provides every example that I've identified of songs in Jekyll's book that includes either a color referent for some or all Afro-Jamaicans, and/or a racial referent such as "the n word", "Mulatto", Sambo" or "Bungo". This compilation includes the definitions that Walter Jekyll gave for the terms "Mulatto", "Sambo" and "Bungo". 

I've also included a song example that contains the referent "Cromanty" which Jekyll describes "one who is Cromanti-an African tribe".  

The first section of this pancocojams post provides examples of the racial terms that Walter Jekyll used in his book as general referents for Afro-Jamaicans (i.e. "negro", "Negro", and "Black").

No song example in Jekyll's book contains the referent "negro" or "Negro". Two examples in that book tht include the n word (and Jekyll wrote a long note about the use of the "n word" by Black people and by non-Black people in Jamaica during the the late 19th and the very early 20th century.).

The referent "black" (spelled with a lower case "b") appears to be used by Jekyll's Afro-Jamaican informants as a referent for some, but not all people of Black African descent in Jamaica i.e. those who are dark skinned without any discernable racial mixture. The exception to this is the example given on page 233.  Instead of general racial referents, these Afro-Jamaicans appeared to have used racial terms such as "Mulatto", "Sambo", and "Bungo" that referred to how much Black African ancestry the person had. They also used "brown" and "yaller" ("yellow") as color referents for people with some Black African ancestry and some other racial ancestry. Jekyll provides definitions for "Mulatto" which isn't the definition that is commonly given for that term. Read my comments in this post's discussion thread below.

I didn't include examples in this compilation where the color referent appears to be a last name, although I couldn't resist including the song example of "James Brown" in the comment section of this pancocojams post. 

These selected examples are given without musical notations or the "listen (Windows Media" option. I've included the numbers that Walter Jekyll assigned them in his book. I've also included their page numbers, and the type of dance music for the examples from the "Dance Song" section.) The comments that Walter Jekyll wrote about these selected examples are also included with those examples.

The word that is commonly called "the n word" is spelled in modified form with dashes for some of its letters.

I've separated the examples using asterisks which are found in that mansucript, but I haven't numbered these examples. I also haven't added any editorial notes to this quoted material. 

In his 1907 book Jamaican Song and Story: Annancy Stories, Digging Sings, Ring Tunes, and  Dancing Tunes, White British planter and folkloric collector Walter Jekyll uses three different  referents to refer to all Afro-Jamaicans . Those referents are "negro", "Negro", and "Black" (also given as "the Blacks" and "the blacks").

Here are examples of each of those referents :

“In imitating animals the negro is clever. He moos like a cow, grunts like a pig, whinnies like a horse, besides the minor accomplishments of miauling and barking. Even trammelled by music this cock's crow is good”…

"The negro is a born actor, and to give emphasis to his words by appropriate gestures comes naturally to him."


“When a Black man says he is nearly dead for water he only means that he is rather thirsty”. [page 261]

"Strangers are called "follow-line" because, as they come down from their homes in the higher hills, they walk in strings. No Black man or woman ever goes alone if he can help it. He always hitches on to somebody else, and the string increases in length as it passes along. This walking in Indian file is necessitated by the narrowness of the track, which is seldom wide enough for two to walk abreast.”[269] "

The Blacks (or the blacks)
Read "Rise The Roof" from page 227 below.

Other examples of these catch-all referents are given in Walter Jekyll's notes for some of these selected examples.  




[page] 177

Leaving the religious, we come now to, what Jamaica considers more important, the colour question:—
Sambo lady ho! Sambo,
Sambo lady ho! Sambo,
Sambo no like black man, Sambo,
Sambo want white man, Sambo,
Sambo no get white man, Sambo,
Sambo no want man again, Sambo,
Sambo lady oh! Sambo.

A Sambo is the child of a brown mother and a black father, brown being a cross between black and white. The Sambo lady, very proud of the strain of white in her blood, turns up her nose at the black man. She wants a white man for a husband. Failing to find one, she will not marry at all.



[page] 183

Now the colour question crops up again. The Sambo lady, it may be remembered, wanted a white man and nothing but a white man. Sarah can do with a Sambo man, from which we may infer that Sarah was black.

Oh me know Sarah, me know Sarah;
Sarah love white man, me know Sarah;
Sarah want Sambo man, me know Sarah;
Sarah no want black man, me know Sarah.



[page] 194

To the same class belongs:—

Ring a diamond, ring a diamond,
Why oh ring a diamond.
Get in the ring you'll find one Sambo boy.
Why oh ring a diamond.
Me look me da look me no find one Sambo boy.
Why oh ring a diamond.
Me find me diamond, me find me diamond.
Why oh ring a diamond.
Wheel you diamond, wheel you diamond.
Why oh ring a diamond.
Let go diamond, let go diamond.
Why oh ring a diamond.

This tune has a beautiful swing. In many bars it is almost impossible to distinguish whether the tune is triple or duple. Much license may be allowed in the direction of the latter to a good timist, but the general-

[page] 195

- impression of triple time must be kept. The "Sambo boy" bar must be sung very smoothly. It is neither quite as it is written the first time nor quite as it occurs in the second, but just between the two. Three even crotchets with judicious tempo rubato would give it. It will be understood that these tunes are sung antiphonally. In this one the leaders, who know the tune and words well, sing the first four bars and the next four belong to the chorus, after which the leaders take it up again, and so on.

There is an opportunity here for a little harmless "chaff" about colour. The diamond chosen is a black diamond, the blacker the better. The ring forms round him joining hands, and one girl is pushed in to look for the Sambo boy. She says:—"I look, I am looking, I don't find a Sambo boy" (i.e. a quarter black). At last she finds her diamond, either the boy inside the ring or one of those who circle round him, and they dance together, wheeling and letting go hands at the words "wheel," "let go."

"Why" is an ejaculation, probably the same as Hi!


Another rough game is:—

[page] 202

Two man a road, Cromanty boy,
Two man a road, fight for you lady!
Two man a road, down town picny,
Two man a road, fight for you lady!
Two man a road, Cromanty win oh!
Two man a road, Cromanty win.

A line of girls stretches along each side of the road and in front of them stand the two combatants armed with sticks. One is a Coromanti (one of the African tribes) and the other a Kingston or down-town boy. "Fight for your ladies" cry the respective lines to their champions. Whoever can disable the other and snatch one of his girls across the road is the winner. A mock doctor comes to bind up the wounds.


[page] 207

The first half of the tune which follows occurs in the story of Annancy and Screech-owl (No. XIX.):-208-—

[page] 208

There's a black boy in a ring, tra la la la la,
There's a black boy in a ring, tra la la la la,
There's a black boy in a ring, tra la la la la,
He like sugar an' I like plum.
Wheel an' take you pardner, jump shamador!
Wheel an' take you pardner, jump shamador!
Wheel an' take you pardner, jump shamador!
For he like sugar an' I like plum.

The boy inside the ring chooses his partner, whom he leaves there after the dance. She obtains release by choosing another partner, whom she leaves behind. So there is alternately a boy and a girl in the ring.

"Shamador" is possibly a corruption of "camerado."





[page] 225

Bungo Moolatta, Bungo Moolatta,
Who dé go married you?
You hand full a ring an' you can't do a t'ing,
Who dé go married you?
Me give you me shirt fe wash,
You burn up me shirt with iron,
You hand full a ring an' you can't do a t'ing,
Who dé go married you?
"You Bungo Mulatto, who is going to marry you? Your ring-bedecked fingers can't do anything. When I gave you my shirt to wash you burned it with an over-hot iron."

Bungo (rhymes with Mungo) means a rough uncivilized African.

A Mulatto is the child of two Brown parents, Brown being the offspring of Black and White. He has rather a yellow skin.



2nd Figure.

[page] 227

 Rise a roof in the morning,
Rise a roof in the morning;
Tell all the ni- -er* them to come, come, come,
Rise a roof in the morning.
The Monkey and the Baboon them was sitting on the wall,
Rise a roof in the morning;
I an' my wife cannot agree,
Rise a roof in the morning.
She 'pread me bed on the dirty floor,
Rise a roof in the morning;
For Devil made the woman an' God made man,
Rise a roof in the morning.

"Rise a roof" seems to mean, as far as I can understand the explanation, "raise the roof"; as we might say, "row enough to blow the roof off."

"Baboon" always has this accent on the first syllable and a French a.

The Blacks do not mind calling themselves ni—ers*, but a White man must not call them so. To say "black nehgher" is an offence not to be forgiven. The word is used again quite kindly in the following:




[page] 227

Oh we went to the river an' we couldn' get across,
We jump on the ni- -er* back we think it was a horse.[56]
Then Stephen, Stephen, Stephen boy,
Stephen, Stephen, poor Stephen!


[page] 233

This seems a fitting moment to introduce:—

4th Figure.

Oh General Jackson!
Oh General Jackson!
Oh General Jackson!
Oh you kill all the Black man them!
Oh what a wrongful judgment!
Oh what a wrongful judgment!
Oh what a wrongful judgment!
You kill all the Black man them.
Oh what a awful mourning!
Oh what a awful mourning!
Oh what a awful mourning
You bring on St. Thomas people!

This is the other side of the question, referred to in the Digging Sing, No. 88. It is the rebellion of 1865 again, from the point of view of that section of the Blacks who considered themselves aggrieved at the measures taken for its suppression.



Here are two more references to the colour question:

1st Figure.

[page] 244

Look how you mout',
Look how you mout',
Look how you mout' fe go kiss moolatta.
Look how you mout',
Look how you mout',
Look how you mout' like a pan.




[page] 245

Breezy say him no want Brown lady,
Breezy say him no want Brown lady,
Breezy say him no want Brown lady,
Afterward him go take Brown lady.
Why! Why! Why, Breezy!
Why! Why! Why, Breezy!
Why! Why! Why, Breezy!
Think you say you no want Brown lady.


[page]  275

The next conveys an appreciative reference to a proprietor who is a large employer of labour.


Mister Davis bring somet'ing fe we all,
Mister Davis bring somet'ing fe we all.
Oh him bring black gal,
An' him bring brown gal,
An' him bring yaller gal an' all.



4th Figure.

[page] 276

Quattywort' of this!
Quattywort' of that!
till him come up to a shilling oh!
Why Brown man!
Why Brown man!
you have a nasty way, Robson.

The boy has run up a score at the shop and professes astonishment at the items and the total. Black trusts White more than Brown."

This concludes Part I of this three part pancocojams series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Although this example doesn't include any racial or color referents, I wanted to showcase it just because of its inclusion of the name "James Brown" (who coincidentally was a "
    James Joseph Brown (May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006) was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, musician, record producer, and bandleader. The central progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th-century music"...

    James Brown, you mahmy call you.
    James Brown a shake him shoulder.
    Sake a the young gal butterdore,
    James Brown a shake him shoulder.

    To express dissent they do not shake their heads but wriggle the whole of their bodies. It is a most expressive action.

    A butterdore, more properly butter-dough, is a kind of cake." [CLXIV.
    5th Figure. page 253;

    1. Here's another coincedential contemporary African American music connection to that 1907 Jamaican collection of dance songs:
      page 245 has a song about "Breezy" and "Breezy" is a nickname for R&B mega star singer Chris Brown

  2. Regarding the example on page 202 of Walter Jekyll's 1907 book "Jamaican Songs and Stories...", here's some information about

    Coromantee, Coromantins, Coromanti or Kormantine (derived from the name of the Ghanaian slave fort Fort Kormantine in the Ghanaian town of Kormantse, Central Ghana) was the English name for enslaved people from the Akan ethnicity from the Gold Coast in modern Ghana. The term was primarily used in the Caribbean and is now considered archaic...

    The name Coromantee, Kromantyn or Kromanti, in both Jamaica and Suriname, is derived from the Fanti town known as Kormantse. Due to their militaristic background, Coromantins organized dozens of slave rebellions in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Americas. Their fierce and rebellious nature became so notorious among European slave traders in the 18th century that an Act was proposed to ban the importation of Akan people from the Gold Coast, despite their reputation as strong workers.[1] Most European slave merchants came to understand that the Akan, while primarily peaceful and hardworking, were a proud and fiercely independent people who fought vehemently to protect their vast territories from encroachment by other expanding groups and also fought off the Dutch, Prussian and Portuguese.

    Asantes were often captured as slaves and sent to Jamaica during the Asante-Fante wars."...

  3. Walter Jekyll's definition for Mulatto "A Mulatto is the child of two Brown parents, Brown being the offspring of Black and White."

    may have been what that word meant in late 19th century/very early 20th century Jamaica. However, here's the standard definition for that word is "Mulatto is a racial classification to refer to people of mixed African and European ancestry. Its use is considered outdated and offensive.[6][7]"...

    The referent "Sambo" and "Bungo" are also offensive and outdated as are the racial referent "Negro" (particular spelled with a small 'n', but also spelled with a capitol "N".)