I'd Rather Be a Nigger Than a Poor White Man

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I'D DRUTHER BE A NIGGER[1] THAN A POOR WHITE MAN. AKA- "Nigger Take a Dram," "I'm an Old Nigger and I Will Take a Dram," "Poor White Man." American, Reel. USA, Oklahoma. E Major. BEbe or DDad tunings (fiddle). AABB. The song is not a traditional piece, but was rather composed in 1894 as a comic song by Harry Earle, and published [1] with the note on the title page: "As sung by Miss Maude Huth."

The poor white man, the poor white man,
Livin' up north in a cold white land;
Never seen a banjo or heard a n..... band,
I druther be a n..... than a poor white man.

The poor white man, the poor white man,
Never seen a possum or a possun in the pan;
never had a chicken or a razor in his hand,
I druther be a n..... than a poor white man.

I'm an old n..... and I'll take a dram,
I druther be a n..... than a poor white man. (Thede)

This line is also sometimes heard sung:
My name is Sam, I don't give a damn,
I'd reather be a n..... 'n a po' white man.

This last line, sometimes given as:

My name is Sam, I was raised in the sand,
I'd rather be a n..... than a poor white man.

and, it may be that Earle fashioned his song around an older song. There is evidence that a song containing these latter lines was sung by slaves in the South in pre-Civil War days, although undoubtedly the singing was circumspect and careful. Some sources say it was a common expression in the antebellum South. A version of the African-American song can be found in Odum and Johnson's The Negro and His Songs (pp. 217-218).

Georgia fiddler Fiddlin' John Carson recorded a song that contains some of the couplets in his "Hell Bound for Alabama" (OKeh 45159), recorded in 1927. See also Kentucky fiddler Owen "Snake" Chapman's "I don't like Whiskey" where one of the couplets is also used.


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Learned in Davis, Indian Territory [Thede].

Printed sources : - Thede (The Fiddle Book), 1967; p. 62.






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