Angelina Baker (Foster, 1850)-Stephen C. Foster ~ Letter to E. P. Christy (May 25, 1852) ~ "As I once intimated to you, I had the intention of omitting my name* on my Ethiopian songs, owing to the prejudice against them by some, which might injure my reputation as a writer of another style of music..."
I’m Off for California (1850s?)-Here’s a song you’ll recognize, and yet… it’s a side of the Gold Rush story you might not have heard about in school: The melody is Stephen Foster‘s first big hit, “Oh Susannah” (1847), ubiquitous in its time and still common in the “folk song” tradition over a century and a half later. Foster’s original composition features two world-changing technologies...
Ring, Ring De Banjo (Foster, 1851)-Frederick Douglass (1845) ~ “Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears..."
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852-1859?)-"Euclid... is no child for effecting social revolutions, but an impassioned song may set a world in conflagration." ~ The London Times (3 September 1852)
United States it am de place (Rice, 1858)-This mysterious half-dialect minstrel song from Rice's 1858 Method for the Banjo offers an intriguing glimpse into the economics and racial politics of the antebellum era...
Picket Guard (Beers & Hewitt, 1861)-"His musket falls slack, his face dark and grim,
Grows gentle with memories tender,
As he mutters a prayer for the children asleep--
For their mother--may Heaven defend her."
Song of the 1st of Arkansas (1864)-This rewrite of "Battle-Hymn of the Republic" puts the agency of social and economic upheaval squarely on the shoulders -- or rather, under the boot-heels -- of Colored Troops.