Old racist song tells how to be a chicken thief

A Dream of Paradise
(A postcard from 1900)
 
The racist “coon song” called Get on your Sneak Shoes Children stereotyped blacks as poor thieves stealing chickens from hen-houses "when times are hard." The song advised wearing quiet "sneak-shoes" to sneak around silently.

The music and lyrics were written in 1894 by Gussie L. Davis, who became famous as a composer and influenced a great deal of later music.

The song is deceptive in many ways.

Get on your Sneak Shoes Children!
Words and music by Gussie L. Davis

A dark night, a nigger and a chicken
You can bet they are mighty close friends
When times are hard and poultry's high,
And a nigger can't meet his ends.
When he feels like he's been hoo-doo'd
And business with him is slack
Just give him a basket with a covered top,
And a chicken he'll bring back

CHORUS
Get on your sneak-shoes children,
Now listen to what I say,
Don't disgrace the colored race,
Do not go astray.
Get on your sneak-shoes children,
Now's the time to make your mark,
Don't come yellow, but come the right color,
But for goodness sake don't come dark.

Just give a coon a white handle razor,
Let him find a game of craps
He'll make coons scatter very quick,
It's the nature of the japs,
Don't you pester with his money,
Any time he puts it down,
He says that he'll chop enough meat off of you,
For to feed all the dogs in town.

CHORUS
Get on your sneak-shoes children,
Now listen to what I say,
Don't disgrace the colored race,
Do not go astray.
Get on your sneak-shoes children,
Now's the time to make your mark,
Don't come yellow, but come the right color,
But for goodness sake don't come dark.

Gussie L. Davis

Gussie L. Davis, (1863-1899) was, according to The Library of Congress:
“...the first black songwriter to achieve major success in New York's commercial music district, Tin Pan Alley… An extremely versatile composer and performer, Davis experimented with many musical forms, including sentimental ballads, comic minstrel songs, art songs, and choral music.”
- Get on your sneakshoes children! / words and music by Gussie L. Davis. NYPL Digital Library>>
- Question of the Month: What Were Coon Songs? Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State University>>
- The Coon Obsession with Chicken & Watermelon, Authentic History>>
- Gussie Lord Davis, 1863-1899 [biography], The Library of Congress>>

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