Follow the Drinking Gourd

Follow the Drinking Gourd

Postby ZaphodBurner » Tue Sep 18, 2007 3:02 pm

Request for artistic ideas:

So, I'm thinking about participating in the "American Dream" theme by exploring the old song "Follow the Drinking Gourd" which has to be one of the most powerful and valuable songs in American history.

If you haven't heard of it, it's this:

Before the end of slavery a carpenter named Peg Leg Joe wandered from plantation to plantation in the deep south repairing barns, fences, etc. As he worked, he taught slaves a song, "Follow the Drinking Gourd", in which the Drinking Gourd is the Big Dipper and the lyrics are a roadmap to the Underground Railroad.

The lyrics are literally an encoded map to freedom, and there's no counting how many thousands of slaves and slave families won their freedom by it. How unimaginably powerful is that? I can't think of more righteous and glorious art:

"When the sun goes back
and the first quail calls
Follow the drinking gourd
The old man is a-waitin' for
to carry you to freedom
Follow the drinking gourd

The river bed makes a mighty fine road,
Dead trees to show you the way
And it's left foot, peg foot, traveling on
Follow the drinking gourd

The river ends between two hills
Follow the drinking gourd
There's another river on the other side
Follow the drinking gourd

I thought I heard the angels say
Follow the drinking gourd
The stars in the heavens
gonna show you the way
Follow the drinking gourd"

Anybody have any ideas about how to bring that to the playa, feel free to share! Cheers!

- gatt / CatharticusX
"The Red Baron is smart.. He never spends the whole night dancing and drinking root beer.. "-The WWI Flying Ace
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Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Sep 18, 2007 6:21 pm

Interesting idea.
I don't know enough of the history, but I was intrigued by something that Barbara Hambly included in one of the Benjemin January novels, saying that some of Brer Rabbit actions in those stories were basic evasive manuvers that could be used by escaping slaves to avoid dogs ect. Her training was in history, and I think she's careful, so I believe that's true, although I haven't seen it confirmed anywhere. (I didn't look.)
The stories of escape from slavery and the stories of psychic survival of it can be incredibly moving.
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Postby diane o'thirst » Sun Sep 23, 2007 2:05 pm

There's a bit of anti-slavery legendry attached to the lawn jockey figures.

Lots of people are talking about banning them as "racist" and a "reminder of slavery." None of those people are black, because they know what the real story of the figure is.

Yes, it hearkens back to the slavery period, but it doesn't support or promulgate it. The jockey held a lantern and slaves following the Underground Railroad knew that the lantern lit the way to a safehouse.

If you're going to do an anti-slavery theme camp, make a lawn jockey for the front yard of your camp and tell its story to anyone who complains!
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Postby unjonharley » Sun Sep 23, 2007 2:50 pm

my great grandparents home was a safe house rest stop in the rail road.. my father showed me to entrannce tunnel to the basement 50+ years ago.. it was down the side of a open well.. i told my sister just two years ago.. i took her there but the entrance had been filled in.. we could not get into the basement to see the outline of the secret room that i had seen.. at that time there was still a wooden bench from that time.. there would not have been room to lay down and rest.. she is researching and writing about it now.. we were lucky last year to save great grand fathers little vest pocket jurnals.. must 2 dozon of them.. sister Bonnie is published in family historys..
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Postby ZaphodBurner » Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:54 pm

diane o'thirst wrote:There's a bit of anti-slavery legendry attached to the lawn jockey figures.

Lots of people are talking about banning them as "racist" and a "reminder of slavery." None of those people are black, because they know what the real story of the figure is.

Yes, it hearkens back to the slavery period, but it doesn't support or promulgate it. The jockey held a lantern and slaves following the Underground Railroad knew that the lantern lit the way to a safehouse.


Our neighbor (Oregon) has a lawn jockey without a lamp, but I doubt he has any idea what it means. Apparently it does have a 20th century racial connotation in Virginia, whether it's based on history or just redneck tradition.

Interesting idea, though. Thanks! "Playa Jockey" ... all races, religions and nationalities welcome.
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Postby ZaphodBurner » Mon Sep 24, 2007 3:30 pm

unjonharley wrote:my great grandparents home was a safe house rest stop in the rail road..



That's awesome. Homes and families like that are national treasures and give meaning to both "The land of the free" and "the home of the brave."

My great-grandfather was a Klansman (who fell in love with a creole Catholic and disavowed the Klan.) Before him my relatives were generally Confederate.

I think many/most people would appreciate American freedom a little more if they realized what might have happened, for example, if Hood had simply "Gone to the right" at Gettysburg or if Grant hadn't committed 10,000 of his soldiers to slaughter in 20 minutes at Cold Harbor.

Maybe if folks start burning Old Glory and screaming about American genocide I should gift them with little Confederate flags just for the monkeywrench/art value. (After all, the last Confederate general to surrender was a Cherokee chief--Stand Waitie--who also happens to have been the only indian general in American history.)

Or, could burn a replica of the flag of the 20th Maine just to hear some Berkeley hippiecrit yell "Yeah, man. Down with American oppression...."

Damn yankees. ;>
-c
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Postby diane o'thirst » Mon Sep 24, 2007 6:20 pm

My ancestor was signatory to the Germantown Compact. It was the earliest anti-slavery protest on American soil, vintage 1682 or thereabouts.

The signers were mostly German immigrants who decried the practice of slavery as an abomination and who swore they did not now own slaves, nor would they ever.

At the time, that's somewhat akin to saying "Television is destroying this country. I do not now own a television and I forswear ever owning one." A *very* ballsy statement. What's really intense is that my ancestor was a Mennonite minister and slavery is right there in the Old Testament. He not only had an inch of backbone, it was carved out of the world's biggest diamond.
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You could make a mural.

Postby jcoffy » Fri Jul 04, 2008 5:49 pm

I though about making a mural of Harriet Tubman.

1) Hardly enough color at Burning Man.
2) She is an example of what America should be.
3) Follow the Drinking gourd works well for paintings and pictures.

I am thinking of just making a painting of my heroes for my camp. This is probly going to be one of them. What do you think?
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Postby diane o'thirst » Fri Jul 04, 2008 8:38 pm

Sounds great, go for it.
Looking forward to seeing the pix online.
But aren't you starting a little late? It's Fourth of July, get busy!
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Postby Finnegan » Sat Jul 12, 2008 7:40 pm

No! Let us gather shoes together!
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