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Tag Archives: Mississippi

Crime and Prison Songs: “John Henry”

“Take My Hammer” is a work song that possibly has roots going back to the time of slavery and was sung by convicts who were leased to dig tunnels through the Appalachian Mountains: Take my hammer, Carry it to the captain, Tell him I’m gone, Tell him I’m gone. If he ask you was […]

Crime and Prison Songs: “Prettiest Train”

From the 1870’s to the 1920’s, some Southern states contracted their convicts out to private landowners and companies to perform heavy labor, such as timbering, mining, railroad work, and farming. Little to no concern was given to the prisoners’ safety or health, and they received inadequate food, shelter, and clothing. Because the convicts belonged […]

Crime and Prison Songs: “Jumpin’ Judy”

In 1933, John and Alan Lomax visited prison farms in the South in the hope of recording African-American songs that dated back to the time of slavery. Their visits were based on the theory that the best places to find songs of slavery preserved in their purest form were in prison camps, with their […]