Negro Workaday Songs

Posted: June 24, 2012 in Guy B. Johnson, Howard W. Odum, Slave history, Spirituals

Authors: Howard Odum & Guy Johson


1926. Negro workaday songs. University of North Carolina Press


Howard Odum can be said to be a pioneer in the study of the social life and folk culture of the South.

Negro Workaday Songs, published in 1926, reprinted in 1969, is one of his key works.

Odum, Howard Washington, (May 24, 1884 – Nov. 8, 1954), sociologist, was born near Bethlehem, Ga., the son of William Pleasants Odum and Mary Ann Thomas Odum. He grew up in modest circumstances on his family’s small farm. His formal education was a product of hard work, borrowed money, and happy coincidence. At the age of thirteen the family moved to Oxford, Ga., where he attended Emory Academy and College, graduating in 1904 with the B.A. degree in English and classics. Negro Workaday Songs is the third volume of a series of folk background studies of which The Negro and His Songs was the first and Folk-Beliefs of the Southern Negro was the second. So far as Odum was aware, none of the songs in this collection had been published and the songs were all sung or repeated by actual Black workers or singers and much of their value lies in the exact transcription of natural lines, words and mixtures. Odum intended his study of Black music as a series of pictures of the Black American as portrayed through his workaday songs.He has taken the position that these workaday songs, crude and fragmentary, and often having only local or individual significance, provide a more accurate picture of Negro working life than do conventional folk songs. Odum’s book is also an important contribution to the history of the blues in America and a collector’s item in that field



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