Negro Folk Rhymes, Wise and Otherwise with a study.

Posted: December 6, 2012 in American Folk lore, Miscellaneous, Thomas W. Talley


Author: Thomas W. Talley
Source: The MacMillan Company, 1922


The book contains more than 400 rhymes (some with music) collected in the early 1900s by Thomas W. Talley, a black chemistry professor from Tennessee. The rhymes are mostly American, but there are a few from Africa, Jamaica, and elsewhere. The book “Negro Folk Rhymes” is one of the great American poetry anthologies.

A. Calhoun: “White collectors who also published in the 1920’s, Newman I. White, Dorothy Scarborough, Howard Odum, weren’t able to collect this quality and kind of material. White commented that “the negro’s songs about his women makes an unflattering exhibit.” Talley collected another kind of song, a song that possibly would never have been sung for white people in the 1920’s. Many of these animal “nonsense” songs carry a double message about racism and injustice; and there is also a wealth of tender and beautiful love songs from both sexes, and the sweetest lullabies. (…). This is a brilliant production and best read aloud; many rhymes are riddles which are better apprehended by the ear than the eye. “Milly Biggers” is as great a folksong as we have, from deep in slavery times.”


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