Lewis Paine, Six Years in a Georgia Prison (New York, 1851), 178-181.



Lewis Paine, Six Years in a Georgia Prison (New York, 1851), 178-181.

Includes music itself or text of song


Identity of singers; solo/group



fiddle, percussive qualities of juba dance,




social gathering, games, corn shucking




plantation songs

Geographical location


Notable adjectives

"rapidity", "precision", "accurate time"


They generally so arrange matters, as to get done before night, when they take up their line of march for the house; and, on arriving here, take a drink all round. Then commence their gymnastic exercises. They wrestle, jump, and run foot - races. Black and white all take part in the sport, and he who comes off victorious has an extra sip of the " white eye. ” After indulging in these exercises as long as they wish, someone calls for a fiddle — but if one is not to be found, someone “ pats juber. ” This is done by placing one foot a little in advance of the other, raising the ball of the foot from the ground, and striking it in regular time, while, in connection, the hands are struck slightly together, and then upon the thighs. In this way they make the most curious noise, yet in such perfect order, it furnishes music to dance by. All indulge in the dance. The slaves, as they become excited, use the most extravagant gestures — the music increases in speed — and the Whites soon find it impossible to sustain their parts, and they retire. This is just what the slaves wish, and they send up a general shout, which is returned by the Whites, acknowledging the victory. Then they all sing out, " Now show de white man what we can do! " And with heart and soul they dive into the sport, until they fairly exceed themselves. It is really astonishing to witness the rapidity of their motions, their accurate time, and the precision of their music and dance. I have never seen it equaled in my life. After the dance is over, they all take supper, and start for home, well pleased with their sport. But the shucking frolic is considered by them as a far greater jubilee. A farmer will haul up from his field a pile of corn from ten to twenty rods long, from ten to twenty feet wide, and ten feet high. This pile consists of nothing but ears. They always break the ears from the stalk, and never cut it at the ground, as the Northern farmers do. It is so arranged that this can be on a moonlight evening. The farmer then gives a general " "invite" to all the young ladies and gentle. men in the neighborhood, to come and bring their slaves; for it takes no small number to shuck such a pile of corn. The guests begin to arrive about dark, and in a short time, they can be heard in all directions, singing the plantation songs, as they come to the scene of action. When they have all arrived, the Host makes the following propositions to his company, " You can shuck the pile, or work till eleven o'clock, or divide the pile and the hands, and try a race. " The last offer is generally accepted. Each party selects two of the shrewdest and best singers among the slaves, to mount the pile and sing, while all join in the chorus. The singers also act the part of sentinels, to watch the opposite party — for it is part of the game for each party to try to throw corn on the other's pile. As soon as all things are ready, the word is given, and they fall to work in good earnest. They sing awhile, then tell stories, and joke and laugh awhile. At last they get to making all the different noises the human voice is capable of, all at the same time — each one of each party doing his best to win the victory. One unacquainted with such scenes would think that Bedlam had broken loose, and all its inmates were doing their best to thunder forth their uproarious joy. This is continued till the task is finished. They have plenty of liquor to keep up the excitement.


In this chapter, titled Amusements, Paine writes about some of the activities the enslaved did for entertainment. They wrestled, raced each other, danced, and played music together. One activity where there was music involved was corn shucking.

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