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Rare Jim Crow Broadside from Father of American Minstrelsy
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[AFRICAN AMERICAN]. Printed Broadside. “The Extravaganza of Jim Crow!” ca. 1832-1838. As sung by Thomas D. Rice. 1 p., 5⅛ x 16 in.

Inventory #25605       Price: $4,500

Contemporary variant of “Jump Jim Crow,” a traditional song made famous or infamous in the minstrel shows of T. D. Rice. This version has thirty-nine verses, with the chorus, and includes a final verse not seen elsewhere.[1] The character of “Jim Crow” has a complicated and fascinating history. Based on a folk trickster long popular among African American slaves, the persona of Jim Crow began as an assault on racism and then developed into a negative, stereotypical view. After Reconstruction, it lent its name to harshly segregationist laws that persisted across the South until the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Historical Background

Rice grew up in a racially integrated Manhattan neighborhood and also toured southern slave states, where he observed African American traditional songs and dances. Although superficially stereotyping African Americans, Rice’s portrayal of Jim Crow crossed racial barriers and mocked the pretensions of the rich. What Rice portrayed as a clever and independent trickster who represented an international and interracial underclass became in less skillful hands and in the white imagination a lazy, slow-witted, and even sub-human caricature.

Only later did “Jim Crow” come to personify a race, as it became a stereotype for all African Americans from the late 1830s onward and began its “strange career” in the apt phrase of historian C. Vann Woodward.[2] What came to be known as “Jim Crow laws” appeared immediately after Reconstruction as a resurrection of the harsh Black Codes adopted by white southerners just after the Civil War to limit African American freedom to the bare minimum. Throughout the first half of the twentieth-century, “Jim Crow” became a synonym for the southern system of segregation.

After introducing the song, Rice continued to compose verses for “Jump Jim Crow,” with one compilation including 150 verses. He also varied verses by location. This printing has the verse “I met a Philidelphy niggar, / Dresse’d up quite nice & clean, / But de way he ’bused de Yorkers / I thought was quite mean.” Another printing reverses this verse as “I met a New York niggar, / Dress’d up quite clean, / But de way he bused de Delphians, / I thought was bery mean.[3]

“Jump Jim Crow” began as a folk song, then Rice developed it into an improvised stage performance that became an extravaganza. As one expert writes, “The song was unstable in every way. Its few core verses continually changed as they adapted to the performance contexts.” Far from providing an authoritative text, printed forms like this broadside only “increased the song’s flux by modeling its improvisation.”[4]

Rice performed the “Extravaganza of Jim Crow” in Philadelphia in September 1832; in Boston in December 1832 and April 1833; in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City in January, March, April, May, and August 1833; and in Natchez, Mississippi, in April 1836. After a trip to London to perform there from June to August 1837, Rice was back performing again in Philadelphia and New York later that year.[5]

The folk idea of a dancing crow stems from farmers who soaked corn in whiskey and left it out for crows; after the crows ate the corn and became too drunk to fly, farmers could kill them easily with a club as they jumped helplessly near the ground. “Jim” may derive from “jimmy,” a short crow bar, and “crow” was used to refer to African Americans as early as the 1730s.

Thomas D. Rice (1808-1860), the “father of American minstrelsy,” was born in New York, and apprenticed to a woodcarver. By 1827, he became a performer and traveling actor. In 1828, he popularized a traditional slave song titled “Jump Jim Crow,” which he performed in blackface and punctuated each stanza with a jump. One story claims Rice was mimicking a slave he had met who had a crooked leg and deformed shoulder. Rice’s Jim Crow peaked in popularity from 1832 to 1844. He also performed in more than one hundred plays including some he created.


Professionally backed, with loss to lower corner affecting the text of four lines.

Excerpt Verses:

Come, lis-ten all ye gals and boys,

      I’s just from Tucky-hoe

I’s gwain to sing a lee-tle Song,

      My name’s Jim Crow—


Weel about, and turn about,

      And do jis so,

Eh’ry time I weel about,

      I jump Jim Crow. – CHORUS.


I whip my weight in wild cats,

      I eat an aligator,

And tear up more ground

      Dan kiver fifty load of tater.


So I knock’d down dis Sambo,

      An’ shut up his light,

For I’s jist about as sassy,

      As if I was half white.

I’s so glad dat I’s a niggar,

      An’ don’t you wish you was so,

For den you’d gain poularity,

      By jumpin’ Jim Crow.


What stuff it is in dem

      To make de debil black,

I’ll prove dat he is white

      In de twinklin’ ob a crack.


For you see lobid brothers,

      As true as he hab tail,

It is his bery wickedness,

      What makes him turn pale.


Dere now—I’ll close my song,

      I cannot make it shorter;

Now—white folks come along,

      We go down to de head qua[rter.]



References in Lyrics

I’s just from Tucky-hoe

Tuckahoe Plantation in central Virginia was begun by Thomas Randolph around 1714, and his son William Randolph III expanded it in 1733. After William Randolph’s death in 1745, Thomas Jefferson’s father Peter Jefferson cared for Randolph’s children, managed the plantation, and lived there with his family, including young Thomas, for seven years (1745-1752).

Like Massa Paganinni

A reference to Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), an Italian violinist, guitarist, and composer. After developing a reputation in Italy, he came to the attention of other European musicians in 1813, and his fame spread throughout Europe in the late 1820s and 1830s.

whar’ dey kilt Packingham.

A reference to the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, at which British Major General Sir Edward Pakenham (1778-1815) was fatally wounded.

Dars an end to de bus’ness / Ob our friend Massa Hays.

Jacob Hays (1772-1850) was a well-known New York City police officer. Appointed Marshal in 1798, and High Constable in 1802, a position he held until his death, reappointed by many successive mayors. His prowess as a detective and disperser of riots was legendary. A. E. Costello, Our Police Protectors: History of the New York Police from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, 2d ed. (New York: by the author, 1885), 92-99.

museum” / “Sleepin’ Beauty

John A. Friedle opened a Museum of Wax Figures at 280 Broadway in 1817. Among the figures in the museum in 1830 were “The Sleeping Beauty, with her two Infants.” He opened another wax museum in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1822. His mother Maria Catherine Friedle (d. 1833) operated the museum at the corner of Howard Street and Broadway in New York. In 1830, the “Sleeping Beauty,” now with six Infants, was one of the more than one hundred figures on display. The New-York Evening Post, June 26, 1817, 3:5; New-York Evening Post, September 16, 1830, 1:4.

daddy Lambert” / “skeleton on he hunkies

Daniel Lambert (1770-1809) was a jailer and animal breeder from Leicester, England, who became famous for his unusually large size - over 700 pounds. In 1806, he moved to London and charged visitors admission. After seventeen months in London, Lambert returned to Leicester a wealthy man. A life-sized waxwork, first displayed in London in 1806, was exported to the United States and on display in New Haven, Connecticut, by 1813. By 1828, it was on display in Boston, and P. T. Barnum later bought and displayed it at his American Museum in New York.

hunkies” was a derogatory slang term for Eastern Europeans. Though P. T. Barnum had many animal skeletons and the skeleton of a “mermaid” on display in his museum, there is no evidence he had human skeletons on display.

if I marry and don’t like it, / I’ll nullify the act.

On November 24, 1832, a South Carolina convention declared the federal Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 unconstitutional and therefore inoperative. Vice President John C. Calhoun openly supported nullification and resigned to run for the Senate. President Andrew Jackson insisted on enforcing the tariff in all states. On March 1, 1833, Congress authorized the President to use military force against South Carolina, but also passed a Compromise Tariff which defused the Nullification Crisis.

[1] This imprint is very similar to “Jim Crow,” published in 44-verses by Edward Riley or his family, ca. 1832, with a cover image of “Mr. T. Rice as the Original Jim Crow.” But for this broadside using more vernacular spelling, the first 33 verses are the same. 6 verses about nullification and Andrew Jackson are found in the Riley publication but not here. Verses 34-38 of this version and verses 40-44 of “Jim Crow” are the same, with this manuscript adding a concluding verse not found in the Riley publication.

[2] C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York: Oxford University Press, 1955). Martin Luther King Jr. called the book the “historical bible of the Civil Rights Movement.”

[3]Jim Crow Complete in 150 Verses,” American Song Sheets, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; T. D. Rice, Jim Crow, American: Selected Songs and Plays, edited by W. H. Lhamon Jr. (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009), 17.

[4] W. H. Lhamon Jr., Jump Jim Crow: Lost Plays, Lyrics, and Street Prose of the First Atlantic Popular Culture (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 93.

[5] The National Gazette (Philadelphia), September 11, 1832, 2:2; Boston Post, December 28, 1832, 3:2, April 11, 1833, 3:2; The Evening Post (New York), January 8, 1833, 3:5; March 7, 1833, 3:5, April 22, 1833, 3:5, May 13, 1833, 3:5; August 17, 1833, 3:5; Mississippi Free Trader (Natchez), April 8, 1836, 2:7; Morning Herald (New York), August 30, 1837, 1:1-2.

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