My Pretty Quadroon

DESCRIPTION: Singer, a slave, mourns for his lost Cora, "my pretty quadroon." His master had been kind, but coveted Cora, and when the slave grieves, the master sells the singer down the river. He contemplates suicide until he hears the trumpets of the Union army
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1865 (Beadle's Dime Song Book #16, according to Browne-AlabamaFolkLyric)
LONG DESCRIPTION: Singer, a slave, mourns for his lost Cora, "my pretty quadroon". His master used to be kind, so much so that the singer "had not...a wish to be free" The master covets Cora, and when the slave tears his hair in grief, the master turns hard, and sells the singer down the river. He contemplates suicide, but hears the trumpets of the Union army and regains hope.
KEYWORDS: hardheartedness sex separation slavery lover Civilwar jealousy
FOUND IN: US(SE,So) Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Beck-SongsOfTheMichiganLumberjacks 79, "My Pretty Quadroon" (1 text)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore5 711, "My Pretty Quadroon" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Browne-AlabamaFolkLyric 38, "My Pretty Quadroon" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #4965
Beverly Hill Billies, "My Pretty Quadroon" (Brunswick 441, 1930)
Bud & Joe Billings (Frank Luther & Carson Robison), "My Pretty Quadroon" (Victor V-40282, 1930)
Dixieland Swingsters, "My Pretty Quadroon" (Bluebird B-8109, 1939)
The Happy Chappies, "My Pretty Quadroon" (Columbia 2252-D, 1930)
Jim & Ken, "My Pretty Quadroon" (Champion 16812, 1934; Champion 45074, c. 1935)
Light Crust Doughboys, "My Pretty Quadroon" (Vocalion 02992, 1935)
John James, "Pretty Squadron" (on MUNFLA-Leach)
Carson Robison Trio, "My Pretty Quadroon" (Banner 773/Challenge 785/Conqueror 7593/Jewel 6024/Romeo 1388, 1930) (Broadway 8280, n.d.; Crown 3140, 1931)
Texas Jim Lewis, "My Pretty Quadroon" (Decca 5990, 1941)
Vagabonds, "My Pretty Quadroon" (Victor 23849/Bluevird B-5072/Montgomery Ward M-4307, 1933)
Wanner & White [pseuds for W. C. Childers & Clyde White], "The Pretty Quadroon" (Champion 16306/Superior 2713 [as Holmes & Taylor], 1931)

NOTES [100 words]: In the tortured stratification of racism, a "quadroon" was someone whose ancestry was one-fourth Negro -- hence, someone with fairly light skin, and therefore of high status in the African-American community. This song was enormously popular in minstrel shows and vaudeville, well into the twentieth century. But I can't for the life of me remember the author. - PJS
The description here seems to be that of the original poem, or perhaps a Civil War adaption. As it circulates in oral tradition, however, the details can be lost and it may become a lament simply for a girl lost (perhaps by death). - RBW
Last updated in version 4.4
File: Be079

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