Why did we Change the Title?
From the introduction and Jump Jim Joe notes in “Rise Sally Rise”
After the initial success of ‘Chimes of Dunkirk – Great Dances for Children’ which Andy Davis, Mary Cay Brass and I published in 1991, my wife and partner Mary Alice Amidon and I put together a collection of our favorite singing games gleaned from workshops, community dances, Pinewoods Family Week dance leaders, friends, colleagues, printed dance collections and courses we took on traditional dance and song. We titled it after the singing game that, at the time, we found the most universal: Jump Jim Joe. We have since learned that Jump Jim Joe is related to the song ‘Jump Jim Crow’, made famous by white minstrel show performer Thomas Dartmouth Rice in 1828. The song was so widespread that it gave its name to the “Jim Crow” laws that kept African Americans in subjugation for many years after the abolition of slavery.
After years of discussions between Andy, Mary Cay, Mary Alice and myself, and with many other music/dance educator colleagues, Mary Alice and I decided to leave the Jump Jim Joe singing game in the collection, but to rename the collection with lyrics from the classic singing game Little Sally Walker: “Rise Sally Rise”.
While ‘Jump Jim Joe’ on its own merits is a beautifully simple and engaging singing game, it is certainly understandable to choose not to use it because of its complicated ancestry. One could also say that this is an example of a painful symbol evolving into a positive, community building activity.
A personal note from Peter Amidon:
Mary Alice and I were initially surprised and disappointed to learn that “Jump Jim Joe” was descended from a song that inspired the phrase that described the oppressive racist laws in the American south for a century after the Civil War. On further investigation we find that Thomas Dartmouth Rice’s performances generally, and his Jump Jim Crow performances specifically, suggest a range of seemingly contradictory interpretations that when looked at in depth give some surprising insights into nineteenth century racial and social relations. Here are some links to further discussion of Thomas Dartmouth Rice, Jump Jim Crow, and blackface performances in 19th and early 20th century minstrel shows.
- Sam Amidon’s article on Blackface Minstrel Shows:
- Here is a webpage on Thomas Dartmouth Rice from the African American Registry website:
- Smithsonian review of republishing of Jump Jim Crow plays, lyrics and street prose
- African American Registry on Thomas Dartmouth Rice
- A history of blackface/minstrel shows