Lewis Paine, Six Years in a Georgia Prison (New York, 1851), 183-185.



Lewis Paine, Six Years in a Georgia Prison (New York, 1851), 183-185.

Includes music itself or text of song


Identity of singers; solo/group



fiddle, percussive qualities of juba dance,


plantation in the home?



Geographical location


Notable adjectives

"power", "marvelousness"


They sit down to the table with the appetites of alligators; for they have been sharpened by active exercise, and by the play of good humor and jokes, that have circulated freely all the while. After each one has hid no inconsiderable portion of what was before him, they rise from the table with the roundness of a drum, and the tightness of one of its heads. As soon as the table is cleared the girls give a wink; and in a trice the room is stripped of everything but the bed. Two or three men take hold of this, and set it out of the room. The negro fiddler then walks in; and the dance commences. After they have enjoyed their sport sufficiently, they give way to the negroes, who have already supplied themselves with torch - lights, and swept the yard. The fiddler walks out, and strikes up a tune; and at it they go in a regular tear down dance; for here they are at home. The sound of a fiddle makes them crazy; and I do believe that if they were in the height of an insurrection, and anyone should go among them, and play on a violin, they would all be dancing in five minutes. I never saw a slave in my life but would stop as if he were shot at the sound of a fiddle; and if he has a load of two hundred pounds on his head, he will begin to dance. One would think they had steam engines inside of them, to jerk them about with so much power; for they go through with more motions in a minute, than you could shake two sticks at in a month; and of all comic actions, ludicrous sights, and laughable jokes, and truly comic songs, there is no match for them It is useless to talk about Fellows ' Minstrels, or any other band of merely artificial “Ethiopians;" for they will bear no comparison with the plantation negroes. The latter, by frequenting these places of amusement in the capacity of entertainers, become actors, and that of a high order, for in this way they cultivate the faculties most necessary to success in that profession - ideality, marvelousness, and imitation — all of which greatly predominate in the negro character; while tune or the sense of harmony bears off the palm; for if there is a people whom, above all others, the gods themselves have made musical, they are entitled to the distinction. They hold the mirror up to nature; nay, it is nature's self displayed so fully, and with such graphic power, that in spite of himself the gravest will burst out in the most uproarious laughter. They keep up the dance till all are fairly tired out, and then disperse for their homes.


Paine describes the enslaved dancing to a fiddle.

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