When I was a little kid, before I started to school, my mom would sing old tunes from her childhood as she hung clothes out to dry and mopped the linoleum floors. One of the songs she sang frequently was “Old Uncle Ned” that I learned and could sing before I was five.
Mom told us that her folks weren’t able to find work around Piqua, Ohio around 1916 and that they decided to move the family to Indianapolis in an old horse-drawn wagon.
“We’d travel all day and Dad would stop at some farm and ask if they’d let his family sleep in their barn at night. I woke up one morning and this old cow was pulling the straw out from under me and scared Hell out of me, looking up at that cow’s face when I was just a little kid.
Before we got to Indianapolis a man asked Dad if he’d like a job cooking for a work crew of N*****s. We had to travel along with the crew that was building a road and Dad would cook for them. At night a bunch of them old N*****s would sing, long into the night, all these old Darkie songs. That’s where I learned to sing “Old Uncle Ned” when I was just a little girl. Learned it from that crew of N*****s that Dad cooked for so he could buy groceries and hay and oats for our horse.
One of ‘em had a banjo and they’d all sing. Dad told us kids to stay quiet and pretend we was asleep because he’d seen some of ‘em with whiskey and he didn’t want no trouble with that bunch.
Dere was an old Nigga, dey call'd him uncle Ned;
He died long ago, long ago.
He had no wool on de top of his head;
De place where de wool oughtta grow.
We was just little kids then, me and Webster and Wesley and we was scared to death of them N*****s but Dad told us he didn’t have no money and he’d have to work for ‘em for a while if we was to eat.”
I heard that story many times growing up and one day at school I was singing the song about “Old Uncle Ned” and the teacher told me not to sing that song anymore or I’d get a whipping. She couldn’t believe my mom would teach me such a terrible song.
In later years, I too became curious how such a song came to be that caused so much trouble for anyone caught singing it. Would you believe it is an American classic, written by Stephen Foster? What started as a popular, contemporary song became an American classic and now it is banned from even being mentioned in public.
Can you imagine a music recital today with the musicians in blackface playing “Old Uncle Ned?” They’d probably burn the music hall down! Here’s the actual song:
A form of “Old Uncle Ned” for the new 2000 Millennia is still around but the lyrics have been fully sanitized, even in informal settings:
When I grew up we played "cowboys" against the "savage Redskins" with our imaginary Colt .45 Peacemakers. We bragged about how many Japs and Krauts our dads killed in the war. Then in later years, we learned to call those folks on the other side of the tracks “Negroes.” Later they weren’t Negroes anymore. They were “Blacks.” Then they weren’t Blacks anymore. They’re now called “African-Americans.” Who know what they’ll be called in another ten years? Maybe the Redskins will be transformed as well. Already we've transformed into Native-Americans to join ranks with all the other hypenated Americans.
My dad was born on the Choctaw Reservation in Hugo, Oklahoma just a few months after the "Indian Territory" was adopted into the statehood of Oklahoma. He didn’t have a birth certificate because “Indians” (Redskins) (Native-Americans) weren’t really counted as humans at that time. (Like the “Darkies” they were 4/5 of a “man.) “All men are created equal…” Only these weren’t men. Legally, they were 4/5 men and not subject to the provisions of the Constitution.
We tried to hide our heritage out of fear. Grandpa bought a farm in Virginia that was the burial ground for our people before the White Eyes removed them all to Oklahoma. He began a new family name to obscure the heritage, lest the deed to his farm might be voided. My brother asked about the burial caves once and Uncle Coy knocked him off his feet for mentioning it. “We don’t talk about that and you better shut up right now!”
So in 2012 the social climate has changed so much that we guard our words, lest we be singled out as racist or subject to penalties for "hate" crimes.
Most young'uns consider that everything is quite normal. They haven't been on the planet long enough to see the trends forming. I was always taught to respect my elders but anymore it's getting harder and harder to find one. LOL