"Jim Crow" (or "Jump Jim Crow")
In 1828, white entertainer Thomas Rice darkened his face with burnt cork, costumed himself as a plantation slave, and won nationwide fame performing this song in variety theatres. He claimed that his inspiration was an elderly African American he found singing this tune near a stage door one night in Washington DC. Whatever its origins, "Jim Crow" became part of the language, eventually becoming a name for the laws and racist attitudes used to oppress blacks in the Southern United States in the 19th and 20th Centuries. It is generally believed that Rice's lasting success inspired the creation of minstrel shows.
The text here is taken from an early sheet music edition. Although undated, it appears to have been published in the late 1820's oddly enough, no composer or lyricist is listed. The spellings and punctuation are as they appear in the original all designed to reinforce an ugly racial stereotype. Rice continually added verses to spoof events of the day or fit special occasions. An early American edition of the sheet music (undated, but probably from the 1820's) includes 44 verses. Some have such racially insensitive content that we have opted not to include them here.