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May 21, 2024 37 mins

Today the world agrees minstrel shows were horrific, weaponized stereotypes meant to dehumanize people. But not too long ago, minstrel shows and the related "coon songs" were some of the most popular music in all of the United States. In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max join Katie Mitchell and Yves Jeffcoat, the creators of the On Theme podcast, to learn more about the complex relationship of creativity, capitalism, entertainment and race -- all found in the story of one brilliant composer: Ernest Hogan.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Ridiculous History is a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:26):
Welcome back to the show Ridiculous Historians. Thank you, as
always so much for tuning in. Who's that in the booth.
It's our super producer, mister Max Williams.

Speaker 3 (00:36):
I am a super producer in the booth and my
name is Max Williams.

Speaker 4 (00:39):
Maximus is I like to call you in our secret
text threats.

Speaker 3 (00:43):
That we only send to each other late at night.
I know, I know it's all about hot nighttime, private times.
I know it's all about hot touch.

Speaker 4 (00:50):
Look, we got to clarify. Okay, we didn't meet in
a hot tub, per se. We met and then got
into a hot right. We were at an event, a
weekend long event. Yes, there were others with any others
and many others got in hot tub with us. It
was a collaboration, and then the next year we did
a larger collaboration with more people.

Speaker 3 (01:08):
He doesn't want to hear the hot tub.

Speaker 2 (01:09):
You have guys who told me the hot This is
the fourth time, and now we're in a different situation
because it's not just ben Nol and Max here. We
have company, you guys, We have company this week, which.

Speaker 3 (01:21):
Is why we're trying to make really good first impressions
of the hot tub talk. You just got to get
a bigger hot tub, so let us a Jaws reference.

Speaker 2 (01:28):
Yea, let us Welcome to the show, podcasting luminaries, good
friends of ours one returning guest in particular Katie Mitchell
and Eves Jeffcoat, the creators of on Theme. You guys,
thank you for sitting through that.

Speaker 5 (01:44):
Thank you. Honestly, it's kind of like we're in a
hot tub.

Speaker 4 (01:46):
Now, sort of a hot tub time machine, you see,
it's weird in this studio. We're here in person and
little sweltery more like a sounda.

Speaker 3 (01:55):
Yeah, you know, we thank you.

Speaker 4 (01:58):
At the end of every single Ridiculous History episode. We
refer to you as being here in spirit because secret
or behind the curtain peak. I guess Eaves was one
of our very first research associates.

Speaker 3 (02:10):
That's right this way, like for a brief.

Speaker 4 (02:12):
Moments back in the day, and then you, you know,
spread your wings and moved on to bigger and better things, which.

Speaker 3 (02:18):
We're going to talk about today.

Speaker 4 (02:19):
But we still thank you every single episode.

Speaker 5 (02:22):
Ye're welcome.

Speaker 2 (02:25):
Now, let's start before we dive into this week's exploration.
Let's learn a little bit more about on theme and
about your history together as as creators. Katie, you and
I were catching up a little bit before we rolled
on air, and I was fast. I knew you have
a book coming out in February, but I did not

know you also run a bookstore.

Speaker 6 (02:50):
Yeah, yeah, I have a book coming out. The book
is about black bookstores in the United States, and that
idea came from my experience being a bookseller. So my
bookstore is called Good Books, and the book is called
pro to the People. And so I went around the
country interviewing booksellers from yesteryear and current booksellers. So it's
been really fun getting to know all these people and

putting this like really unique history all in one volume
because before it hasn't been all together.

Speaker 4 (03:17):
It's so interesting, I mean with you know, I guess
the advit of like the Amazons of the world and
all that bookshops and independent bookshops in particular. I had
to really lean into the community aspects exactly.

Speaker 6 (03:26):
Yeah, and they all have I think, like one thing
about black bookstores in particular. We're like always put on
these lists like here's like ten black bookstores to go support,
but they're all so different.

Speaker 7 (03:35):
They all have their different political leanings.

Speaker 6 (03:38):
Some of them are feminists, some of them like focus
on sci fi, some of them are really activist based.
So when you go in there, you're like, oh, I'm
at a black bookstore. But like you can really tell
the owners like political leanings by the books that are
on the shelves.

Speaker 2 (03:50):
Because it's kind of like a portrait of the person
who owns the store exactly.

Speaker 6 (03:54):
Yeah, and even as a bookseller, I try not to
like let my own politics, like holy shape it because
I'm like, okay, like I'm not the smartest cookie out there.
Like there's some other things and some interesting things like
I'm not into ya or comics, but like other people are,
and I'm like, okay, I should carry some of that.
But yeah, it definitely shines through because you're the one sourcing.

Speaker 2 (04:12):
The books, and as as two literary luminaries here, you
of course are old friends right started in middle school
and you've maintained nol. This was surprising to me, as
you know, kind of a schlubby dude. They've been able
to be friends for so long. And I will defend
you against yourself. That's bitter end. But it's also interesting

as long time ridiculous historians know. Eves has classed up
our show a number of times and is a prominent
author here in Atlanta. It's doing a million things pretty
much every time we hang out, I learned something new
and you two took from your your friendship and your

love of history. You built this show on the theme.
Could you tell us a little bit about what on themes?

Speaker 5 (05:09):

Speaker 8 (05:09):
So on Theme is a podcast that Katie and I
co host and co create, and it's about black storytelling
and all of its forms, because there are so many
forms and shapes that black storytelling takes. So some of
those being books, like Katie was just talking about, but
we also talk about plays, we talk about music, we
talk about poetry, we talk about TV and film, we

talk about all kinds of black storytelling. Black storytelling being
black stories created by black creators essentially, and.

Speaker 5 (05:40):
We both have a love for black stories.

Speaker 8 (05:42):
I mean, I know Katie grew up around black stories
a lot, and we're both black, so we're like invested
and embedded in black stories as black people in the
United States. But yeah, our show covers black storytelling and
the things that we care about a lot of the time.
But like So Katie and I a should say we
have different interests in a lot of ways. She was

just saying, you know, y A's and comics. The other
day I brought up to her like talking about black cosplayers,
and she was like, oh, I don't want I'm.

Speaker 5 (06:10):
Good on that.

Speaker 8 (06:11):
That's your thing and so like, and there are things
that Katie's into that don't necessarily align with my interests.

Speaker 5 (06:17):
So I feel like we bounce off of each other
really well that way.

Speaker 8 (06:20):
But we have episodes like for Haters, like Katie about
black haters and in rap music and so that's like
her thing.

Speaker 4 (06:29):
And then well we got to get you away in
on the Kendrick Drake beef, really.

Speaker 5 (06:36):
I know it.

Speaker 3 (06:40):
There is one who has a pulitzer. I mean that's
totally true. I just think it's there's a guy, gosh,
I'm forgetting his name now.

Speaker 4 (06:46):
He's like an old school hip hop guy and I'm
totally spacic on his name. But he said that he
thinks it's the most important beef in hip hop music,
like since forever, because of how it actually affected these guys' lives,
like Drake is basically I don't know for all kids
and purposes sort of over you know, and Kendrick has
a number one song where he calls a.

Speaker 3 (07:05):
Dude a pedophile. Yeah, any thoughts.

Speaker 6 (07:09):
I mean, I I think it's a very important rap beef.
I I love all things hating, love all things beef.
I think so the hating episode that he is talking about.
My thesis statement was that haters are muses. So if
you have somebody hating on you, maybe you're gonna pop out.
You're gonna be like, oh you hating on me, Like
I'm gonna show you. But Kendrick flipped it and he's like, no,
I hate you, and my hate for you is driving

this art. And I was like, WHOA, didn't think about that,
But it's true. But yeah, I think it's really important.
I think that there are a lot of people who
like put on blackness as a costume who may be
black fully, maybe half black, or not black at all.

Speaker 3 (07:45):
Cough cough Drake cough. Yeah.

Speaker 7 (07:47):
Like, and I mean when Kendrick said.

Speaker 3 (07:51):
Canada, but.

Speaker 6 (07:54):
Let's be real, when he said, you run to America
to imitate heritage, you can't imitate this violence, and like, yeah,
like there's there's things.

Speaker 3 (08:01):
As I'm a colonizer, yeah, he is.

Speaker 6 (08:04):
I think there's a lot of things that Black Americans
have put out into the world as far as art
that people of all stripes feel like they have entitlement
to co opting. Yeah, right, And so Drake being you know,
the personification of that in many ways, like pretending to
be from Atlanta. He's from Memphis. Sometimes he's from you know, Houston.

Sometimes he's vaguely Caribbean.

Speaker 3 (08:29):
He does put on the pets occa to don't love it.

Speaker 4 (08:32):
So I love it, I too, you know, I mean,
I really think it's interesting too, the forensic level of
like investigative journalism that has gone into this rap beef.

Speaker 7 (08:41):
Yeah, it's kind of.

Speaker 6 (08:43):
There's so much lower Wait, it is all this real,
but I'm living for it.

Speaker 2 (08:48):
And we're getting to, uh, we're getting to part of
this exploration for this week where we're talking about the
importance of art and culture and communication in the way
that it isn't you know, Black American cultures, as weird
as it is to say it, and I know a
lot of people in other parts of the world don't
want to hear it. Black American culture has historically been

one of the most successful exports of the United States.

Speaker 3 (09:13):
Can we agree with that?

Speaker 8 (09:14):
It has been completely commodified in so many ways across
the world. And I mean it influences a lot, it
has a lot of threats. It's got origins here, and yeah,
it's huge. And I think today's episode we're talking about
today is Ernest Hogan and Coon songs and the history
of ragtime. All of those things have like influenced American

and shaped American culture and American music in enormous ways.

Speaker 2 (09:45):
Yeah, let's get to know Ernest. So he's Ernest Hogan.
Is his stage name, right or did he legally change
I think it was Ernest Crowded.

Speaker 8 (09:54):
Yeah, Ernest. The history of why he changed his name
is pretty nebulous. It's one of those things where got
like a story around it, like you took it from
an Irish guy or something like that. But I'm not
sure the actual veracity of that story.

Speaker 3 (10:06):
We have those all the time.

Speaker 4 (10:07):
Apoper full Kin. Yeah, like it was, you know, a
good story, but not necessarily true. The truth exists somewhere
in the middle.

Speaker 5 (10:12):
Problem exactly somewhere in the middle.

Speaker 8 (10:14):
So whatever his reasons were changing it was he was
born Ruben crowdis our crotus and He was born in
Kentucky and he started performing at.

Speaker 5 (10:22):
A pretty early age.

Speaker 8 (10:23):
He was working in a local circus at first, and
I guess I should stop to say that, like Ernest
Hogan was a tipping off point from one of the
episodes that we did on Regret on on theme, So
we were talking about in that episode regret that black
people have had, Black artists have had in the past,
about work that they did that was race related. And

so that's how we came upon Ernest Hogan and this
song that we'll get into in a second, that he
did say that he regretted, but of course it's more
complicated than that. So at twelve years old, he joined
a traveling actors troupe and he played the role of
a black child in Uncle Tom's cabin, and he kept performing.
He was doing this from an early age, and eventually

he started to join different black menstrual groups, and then
he joined a vaudeville quartet.

Speaker 4 (11:13):
Remind people what menstrual groups were in just the concept.
I know it's really fraught in and of itself, but
just a quick overview of the idea of menstrul shows.

Speaker 8 (11:21):
Okay, Yeah, so there's this history of Vauteville, which people
might be they might already.

Speaker 3 (11:26):
Have some knowledge of asthma exactly, Razmataz.

Speaker 8 (11:30):
It was like a variety show essentially, so people might sing,
there might be like skits, one act plays, there would
be music, and there's also this history history of minstrel
syat in the United States, and so these minstrel shows
were kind of similar to that same idea of these
variety acts that were on stage. But in these menstrul shows,
you had white people who were performing in blackface. So

they would take a exactly al Joson so and blackface
continue for quite a while. But yes, so people would
paint their faces in cork with cork to be black,
and then they would be these caricatures of black people
on stage. And so they would try to affect their
ideas of what they thought black culture and black performance was.

Speaker 3 (12:16):
Beyond stereotypical caricatures. We're talking about.

Speaker 5 (12:19):
Beyond in voice. There were you know, they were doing
jigs on stage.

Speaker 8 (12:23):
You know, they had a really affected dialect that was
obviously derogatory and wasn't truly indicative of the breath of
like black dialect.

Speaker 4 (12:32):
I mean, weren't there kind of stock characters almost like
almost like you know in the lexicon of theater where
you have like you know, the the rogue and the
the whatever. Like in menstrual shows, there was like the
kind of lazy character and there were different ones, the
sneaky character, there was I believe I'm forgetting.

Speaker 8 (12:50):
Yeah, So I will say that generally to the menstrel
like was based around an idea of black masculinity. So
there were women who showed up, but a lot of
the people who were in blackface were white men performing
as black men, and their idea of black masculinity often
revolved around their laziness. So they couldn't do this, you know,
they weren't capable, Like they were kind of bumbling around.

They were idiots, they were fools, and so that was
often the stereotype that they would use in minstrel shows.
And then oftentimes when the woman was involved, she was promiscuous.

Speaker 5 (13:27):
That was kind of her character.

Speaker 8 (13:28):
Which she came in like a Jezebel, and her relationship
was based off of this character, the black male character
that they were performing.

Speaker 4 (13:37):
So Hogan's coming up in this kind of this culture,
like he's how is he a part of this as
a black man?

Speaker 5 (13:50):
So as a black man.

Speaker 8 (13:52):
He does he creates Kon songs, so he has a
really really interesting history. I mean, he's called has been called,
I think the father of Ragtime or something like that.
So he was very integral in the early stages of ragtime.
But that also included Koon songs, and Coon songs were
songs that were they were the same idea as minstrel

shows we were just talking about. So in addition to
this lazy character character, it was also like a violent
character as we can see continues today in the way
that black men are often portrayed. That was the case
in minstrel shows back then too. But basically Coon songs
were kind of minstrel shows in song form, so they
included these derogatory characters of black people, often black men,

and that was the rage at the time. And this
is where Ernest Hogan's story came in. He wrote one
of the like, if not the most popular, like one
of the most popular songs at Koon Songs at the time,
and that was all Kuon's look alike to me, which
I must say that you can listen to to a
rendition of that song on our episode. We might regret

this episode later on theme because a musician named Coolie
Gilchris performed it.

Speaker 5 (15:10):
So we still have the sheet music.

Speaker 8 (15:11):
Everybody can go online and find the sheet music and
you can see exactly how to sing it if you're
into that thing. Yea, Honestly, it's a catchy song, I
must admit. But there are lots of intricacies for sure,
which we talked about in our episode about like why
Ernest Hogan was invested in coon songs so heavily and

why he like truly was compelled to create coon songs.

Speaker 6 (15:38):
And going back to your question about like the different
stereotypes within the Mintell Shows, one of the biggest ones
was a character called Jim Crow. And so if you're
familiar with Jim Crow laws in America, you can see
how this art form really impacted kind of like public
policy throughout.

Speaker 7 (15:55):
The twentieth century.

Speaker 6 (15:57):
So we're going from Mintell Shows to Yah, you need
to get to the back of the buzz y'all can't
loiter here.

Speaker 7 (16:03):
So it really is like this through line to inform.

Speaker 4 (16:06):
The perspective like of what white people thought about black
culture and black people exactly.

Speaker 2 (16:11):
And this also this strange, this strange relationship between public
policy the world of entertainment systematic racism. This brings us
to Earnest as a singular example of larger pattern, because
I think for a lot of people, unfortunately in the US,

they didn't learn about the nature of menstrual shows until
they saw films like Bamboozled, right, and when they saw that,
you know, I remember a lot of people being surprised
by the idea that if you are a black entertainer
at this point in American history, one of the few
ways that you can be a paid performer is to

participate in this thing, to wear black face even though
you are already black, and perpetuate some of those stereotypes.
Is that what happened to Ernest's.

Speaker 5 (17:06):
That's exactly what happened. So Ernest himself wrote coon songs.

Speaker 8 (17:10):
He did not, as far as I know, wear black
face and perform in black face, if I'm remembering correctly,
But there were plenty of other entertainers who did. But
of course, like I said, coon songs were like minstrel shows,
just in song forms, so it's kind of like a
musical black face in a way. So yes, he was
in that predicament. He had to sustain his life, and

he had to put food on his table. You know,
he had to live. So the thing that he chose
to do to do that was publish coon songs. And so,
like I said, coon songs were hot. So you have
to think about back in this time, like people were
buying sheet music to have in their homes, and then
there were people who were performing across cities in the
United States in like actual entertainers who were performing in venues,

but then there were people at home who were also
buying sheet music. So entertainers at the time would sell
their sheet music. That didn't work out so well for
all entertainers because they were selling sheet music for like
fifty a pop one hundred of pop, where they weren't
getting royalties and things like that. They could have made
more money. So that did happen to some people. But
it was an avenue for making money. And this was

his career. He was an entertainer and he was a
composer and he wrote all Kunes look alike to Me.
He also wrote another song called Aapasma Law, and that was.

Speaker 5 (18:26):
A pretty popular song too.

Speaker 8 (18:28):
It was a song that is very rooted in black
tradition and black folk music because it did go along
with it had a dance that went along with it,
but just.

Speaker 3 (18:38):
So it was familiar, almost like TikTok culture in a way.
I mean, they're talking about this sucome full circle in
an interesting way.

Speaker 4 (18:45):
It's all about attention deficit theater and like the path
of least resistance and the cashiest little melody with the
most easy to wrap your head around like lyrics.

Speaker 6 (18:54):
Yes, yeah, that song in particular had like, uh lyrics
that tells you how to do the dance, which I
was like, hey, like this sounds like a dance we
would dude today. And I think just like the echo
of Ernest Hogan, he you can still kind of see
him in Hollywood now, like people, you know, black men
or Latino men saying like, oh, I can only get
casted as like a thug, but I want to be

in Hollywood, so I want to take these roles and
hope and pray that my hard work will you know,
make me the Denzel of my time or something.

Speaker 3 (19:24):
But Danny Trejo says, hey, could I be a love
interest at some point? You know what I mean?

Speaker 6 (19:30):
Yeah, so you definitely see like Ernest Hogan in all
these contemporary ways.

Speaker 8 (19:35):
I feel, Yeah, for sure, we were thinking about snap
music and how it would say lean back, you know,
rock side to side.

Speaker 5 (19:41):
It will tell you exactly what to do.

Speaker 8 (19:42):
And that's how LAPASMLA was and that's clearly rooted in
a long standing black tradition.

Speaker 5 (19:49):
But just help people know.

Speaker 8 (19:50):
I mean, you can go listen to all who's like
look alike to me, but just so people know some
of the lyrics and so they can see how character Yeah,
they see how these characters show up. I will I
will say some of them for you. I won't sing it,
but I will say it. And that's all coons look
alike to me. I've got another bow, you see. And
he's just as good to me as you nigga ever
tried to be. He spends his money free. I know

we can't agree, so I don't like you know how
all coons look alike to me?

Speaker 5 (20:16):
That's the chorus of that song. So they were that
tell a story in between. It takes you to the.

Speaker 3 (20:23):
Moment with that underlying theme.

Speaker 8 (20:26):
Yes, So, like I was talking about earlier, that relationship
between black men and black women in these minstrualized forms
of these stories is that the.

Speaker 5 (20:35):
Man is lazy. He's not making the money.

Speaker 8 (20:38):
So this black woman is who's a character who's speaking
those lines that I just read, is saying she's reinforcing
stereotypes that white people would have placed upon black people
at the time.

Speaker 4 (20:49):
And don't make sure I clear on this, the use
of the word kon here is not a reappropriation of
a word that was used by white people as a negative.
It's just basically saying, yeah, that's the word, and we're
on board with that, kind of like. It's not the
same as the N word used in rap music. This
is like calling themselves koons. Was just a horrible thing
that white people call black people, right.

Speaker 5 (21:09):
Yes, it was.

Speaker 3 (21:10):
Probably it's complex too, So.

Speaker 5 (21:13):
It wasn't what do we call it today when we I.

Speaker 6 (21:15):
Don't think it was a term of endearment now, it
wasn't a term of endearment at all.

Speaker 7 (21:18):
Our reclaiming, reclaiming that's the word.

Speaker 4 (21:22):
Right, No, but it's a word that was thrown around
and hate and hate from white folks, right yeah.

Speaker 6 (21:27):
Yeah, And that's how they were saying it in the songs, yes, exactly.

Speaker 2 (21:30):
And just for anybody who didn't hear that correctly in
that chorus, bo b a U is just like another
lover right yeah, other parent yeah uh and this Okay,
So tell us a little bit about the success of
this song just a bit earlier. So it was an

absolute hit. People considered it a banker.

Speaker 5 (21:56):
Yes they did. It was a bop for people.

Speaker 8 (21:58):
The song got really popular and a bunch of different
people sang it, and there were parodies of it that
were made that people can go look up to. So
people enjoyed the song, and it was also part of
the larger culture of Coon songs. I'm not sure why
people enjoyed it so much this one, particularly because a
lot of other Coon songs that were written at the

time had similar themes. So I don't really know why
people were like, yeah, I really like this one. It
was set to ragtime type music, which people, you know,
say syncopation is a big part.

Speaker 3 (22:30):
Of He was a pianist as well, right like he was? Yeah, okay,
he was, he really did.

Speaker 4 (22:35):
I mean lyrics aside and the offensiveness of all of
this and the complexity he created a form as well,
kind of right like in terms of the music.

Speaker 8 (22:43):
Yes he did, And so he wasn't the first person
to write a Coon song. So I guess this is
where I can start getting a little bit into the
history of coon songs, please, So the coon songs or
coon songs, there were coon songs were created before ragtime
kind of came around. So at a certain point we're

talking about Ernest Hogan and that how he's the father
of ragtime, about how he really helped popularize the form,
and how he was really one of the early composers
in ragtime. But there were coon songs that weren't set
to ragtime that came up before ragtime did. So Hogan's
song had these same caricatures that other coon songs would

have had at the time of black people as bumbling, lazy,
and violent. But the first coon songs came out around
eighteen eighty, so this was after the Civil War, after
ish the reconstruction era, and there were people like black entertainer,
so these were white and black entertainers who were creating
coon songs, but ones like black entertainer Billy Curson's who

wrote this song called Mary's Gone with a Coon that
was in the eighteen eighties, and this minstrel comedian named
Charles Hunt has been credited. Okay, this is one of
those this is one of those things where there's so
many things that can be called a first for what
the coon song was, but he's been credited with writing
the first real coon song, whatever that means.

Speaker 2 (24:07):
Since we're an audio podcast, everybody, I want you to
hear the air quotes.

Speaker 3 (24:11):
Yes, combo there. I mean parallel thinking is a thing too,
by the way.

Speaker 4 (24:16):
I mean like, this is something that that was in
demand even if people didn't know what to call it yet, right, Like,
so people probably sort of created it at the same
time in a lot of cases.

Speaker 8 (24:25):
Yeah, and you also have to imagine, like, of course
these ideas of black people being inferior are going to
work themselves out in song, like no matter what the
the beat is.

Speaker 2 (24:37):
Because the music will reflect the zeitgeist that if the zeikeeist.

Speaker 4 (24:41):
Is thoroughly unclean unclean indeed, speaking of unclean, but I
found a post on an Internet archive of the sheet
music cover of the published sheet music of this and
it is about as awful as.

Speaker 3 (24:54):
You might think. I'm sure you see this before.

Speaker 4 (24:56):
It's just these, you know, just cartoonish caricatures of blackface,
kind of these these stock characters with big red mouths
and wearing kind of weirdly almost like they're mocking them
because they're wearing like fancy dress clothes.

Speaker 3 (25:10):
What's up with that?

Speaker 8 (25:11):
So that was actually one of the stereotypes of black people.
It was called like a swell, that was called So
that was part of the one of one of the
images that these racist characters would create around black people.

Speaker 4 (25:25):
But it was almost meant to be laughable because they're
like dressing way.

Speaker 3 (25:29):
Above their station. I guess again with the air quotes,
you can't see them.

Speaker 8 (25:32):
Yeah, there's an irony in them wearing this kind of
fancy clothing, but you also have to remember that this
is clothing.

Speaker 5 (25:38):
This is like clothing of the enslaver's class.

Speaker 8 (25:43):
So it's still like a matter of servitude, you know,
for them, it's like I'm placing you in this clothes.

Speaker 5 (25:48):
It's very patriot paternalizing.

Speaker 3 (25:51):
Yeah, patriotizing as well.

Speaker 4 (25:52):
I mean, wouldn't you say too that maybe that was
kind of co opted and owned like in like maybe
pimp culture is the wrong term, but like there is
sort of a vibe of this type of dress that
was sort of taken back in a way by a
certain segment of black culture.

Speaker 5 (26:07):
I've never thought about it that way.

Speaker 4 (26:09):
It sort of feels sort of like like I'm taking
this back for me, you know, and I'm not even
going to allow this to be what it was. I'm
going to like sort of co opt it and own
it and take it back and way.

Speaker 3 (26:18):
I don't know.

Speaker 5 (26:19):
That's interesting.

Speaker 8 (26:19):
No, I've never thought about it, but I think that's
one way to think about it. Yeah, and then and
then I think there are a lot of things like
this that have been co opted back and turned around.

Speaker 3 (26:31):
That's always interesting.

Speaker 8 (26:32):
Yeah, it is always interesting. And I will say too
that you know, it is very complex. But even back then,
the people, the black people who were creating coon songs,
they were self aware.

Speaker 5 (26:47):
They knew what they were doing.

Speaker 8 (26:49):
So I can't speak for every individual and how woke
quote unquote woke they may have been in the songs
that they were creating, but a lot of the times
their songs were satires.

Speaker 3 (26:59):
Say little just dden in there.

Speaker 5 (27:01):
Yeah, there were.

Speaker 8 (27:03):
And one of the people who were was writing coon
songs at the time. His name was Irving Jones. People
can go and look at his sheet music and see
some of the covers that Irvin Jones had, but he
included a lot of that kind of criticism and satire

in his work, so he was class conscious, he was
raised conscious. One of his songs he had it was
called Saint Patrick's Day is a bad day for coons,
So you can go.

Speaker 3 (27:38):
You can go, bad day for everybody, just putting that
out there.

Speaker 8 (27:41):
Yeah, but in this story, he specifically tells the story.
In the song, he specifically tells the story of black
people who are being violently harmed by white people on
Saint Patrick's Day. And that's something that we can still
talk about today. I mean we so I think in
the United States, even broader than black culture, so ignorantly,

willfully ignorantly celebrate other people's cultures through a commercial perspective.

Speaker 5 (28:08):
Like yeah, so.

Speaker 4 (28:13):
He was just giving us the rock hands, Okay, he
was agreeing with you as someone who bartended for seven years.

Speaker 3 (28:19):
I hate Sinko, Tomayo, Sam Patrick's Day, New Year's Eve,
all them. Yeah, we like to collectively refer to those
as amateur hour bring Back Arbor Day celebrations.

Speaker 4 (28:30):
Right, sit under a tree, touch graw, we go, don't
bring it back and go to bars though, That's what
I'm saying, bring back Arbor Day at bars, have a picnic, No,
don't listen.

Speaker 2 (28:40):
So we're we're seeing something here that I think, I
think you hit on something crucial That is a theme
we continually return to in our exploration this week and today,
which is that history is way closer than it looks
in the rear view mirror. Right, I'm thinking of not
to keep referencing films, but I'm also thinking of Mark Fiction,

an amazing film I love that I thought, very much,
very much, very much shows modern examples of what we're
describing happening with menstrual songs? Right, Like, am I as
a creator, as an artist and an entertainer? What agency

do I have?

Speaker 3 (29:22):
You know? And what like the bills versus the soul?

Speaker 8 (29:26):

Speaker 3 (29:26):
Have you all seen American fiction? Yeah?

Speaker 4 (29:28):
Yeah, I just think that the perfect example because it's
about like a more literary minded black writer who as
a joke writes something that he considers trash or representative
of this culture of like the perspective that you guys
are describing, the masculine kind of thug perspective that sells
because it's.

Speaker 3 (29:46):
What white people.

Speaker 4 (29:47):
I guess they are able to enjoy it in some
way because it absolves them or something.

Speaker 3 (29:51):
I don't know. That's what they talking about.

Speaker 4 (29:52):
Complicated but I think it's a really interesting modern example
of what must have been going through Hogan's mind, you know,
or sorry, that's not the right what must have been
going for through the writer's mind when he was writing
these things for money but also thinking about how it
might be affecting his culture negatively.

Speaker 6 (30:09):
And I think similarly to in American fiction during this
time where Coon songs were being written, there was a
contingency of black people saying like, Hey, you shouldn't be
making this, this is making us look bad. So it
wasn't like everyone was just like kind of going along
with it. So as you said, like history is kind
of like right at our doorstep, like we're having a
lot of the same conversations over and over again. Like

the medium might change a little bit, but at the core,
it's kind of the same.

Speaker 8 (30:34):
Yes, there's one I can't remember what article I was
reading about, but not just coon songs, but also the
word coon. So, like Noel was saying earlier, you know,
this work coon is morphed a lot over the year
since this time period that we're talking about now, and
it has different connotations. But in this original derogatory form,
all black people weren't here for the word coon either.

So I was reading this one article that was talking
about a theater in Savannah that was like, oh, oh,
I think it was a black mac. I think it
was a black newspaper if I'm remembering correctly. That was like, yeah,
this is a show for coons. All coons comes through.
And people were like so welcoming. I mean it was Savannah,
I mean speaking of Saint Patti's Day.

Speaker 3 (31:18):
And it's it's still the thing.

Speaker 5 (31:20):
Yeah, I lived there for a second, so I've been
steeped in.

Speaker 3 (31:24):
That this is so unrelated.

Speaker 2 (31:26):
I thought you would enjoy this though one time, because
one time in days when I was even more pretentious
than I am now, I was like, I'm gonna drive
down to a city I've never visited. I'm going to
get a little hotel room, I'm gonna lock myself in
and i'm gonna write.

Speaker 3 (31:42):
You know, I'm gonna.

Speaker 2 (31:43):
Take take just the days off. I'll make it happen.
I chose Savannah and Georgia, and I got down there
and everybody assumed that I had gotten to Saint Patrick's
Day a week early because I wanted to party that hard,
and other people showed up up for that reason it
was insane.

Speaker 3 (32:02):
I don't know if you were.

Speaker 5 (32:03):
There, but I flee Savannah. If I'm ever going to
know I'm going to be there.

Speaker 3 (32:07):
I should the worst, just the worst.

Speaker 4 (32:11):
But back to the word koon, I was just looking
up the origins because I was curious as well. Apparently
it was originally used to describe the Whig political party
in the eighteen forties, and then it was also used
before it was a slur for black people, as a
slur for Native American people, and I was unaware of that.
I think this is like in the early eighteen or
like mid eighteen hundreds, but then obviously once it starts

to be used as that in that way, that's kind
of where your story picks up, right.

Speaker 5 (32:38):
Yeah, yeah, it seems like they were like, oh, this
thing works really well.

Speaker 3 (32:42):
Great hate word here.

Speaker 2 (32:44):
Racism has never been especially created.

Speaker 3 (32:48):
But with this.

Speaker 2 (32:49):
Okay, so we know we know that our protagonist in
the story here, Ernest, is part of a larger context, right.
And there are other authors, other musicians who are as
we said, including social observation, right, including Barbes writing writing

things that acknowledge the truth of this situation in a
way that some casual listeners might miss or be wilfully
ignorant of how did how did people react to Hogan
when he was writing these did he achieve, you know,
like a celebrity status?

Speaker 3 (33:28):
Was he was? He considered famous, His.

Speaker 4 (33:31):
Name is on the sheet music real big. I mean,
I can tell you that. But I do wonder, like
because a lot of times writers that aren't really the
singers per se, they sort of take a back seat
and they don't necessarily have name recognition or like publicity
kind of vibes.

Speaker 8 (33:44):
So in Ernest Hogan's case, he was a touring entertainer
as well, so he had he had celebrity and during
contemporary times got it. It wasn't one of those situations
where they were like, oh, we just realized after he
died posthumously that Ernest Hogan was the one who wrote
this huge.

Speaker 6 (34:02):
And I think that played into his regret because people
knew him so much and associated him so much with it.

Speaker 7 (34:08):
If he tried to move on.

Speaker 3 (34:09):
It's hard to move on from something when that's your
big hit.

Speaker 7 (34:11):
That's what everybody they want you to keep doing it.

Speaker 8 (34:14):
Yeah, and there were a lot of going back to minstrelsy,
there are a lot of black minstrel troops, So it
wasn't like this minstrel troops were just a white thing.
It's particularly in the South, there were black minstrel troops
who were traveling and doing shows.

Speaker 3 (34:30):
And they did the black face too.

Speaker 5 (34:32):
There were black people who did black face.

Speaker 3 (34:33):
Yeah, yeah, I know that was in Bamboozo.

Speaker 4 (34:35):
But I thought in a way they were almost just
being extreme and sash satirizing the idea of black people
wearing black face.

Speaker 3 (34:40):
But I guess that absolutely happens.

Speaker 5 (34:42):
Yeah, it happened.

Speaker 8 (34:43):
And I would also argue that I think maybe anytime
a black person shows up in black face, it's hard
for it not to be satire because as soon as
you show up in blackface, you are not only not
only mimicking this derogatory character of a black black men usually,
but you're also mimicking the white man, mimicking.

Speaker 5 (35:08):
Yeah black men.

Speaker 7 (35:10):

Speaker 2 (35:11):
Hold the phone, folks, we have officially got some breaking news.
This is going to be a two parter. We're just
having too much fun and there's still too much to
get to for one episode.

Speaker 4 (35:23):
Yeah, for sure, this is a topic that spans many
subtopics and historical touch points, and we couldn't be joined
with better guests to go through what I know can
be a little bit a difficult topic to traverse, and
we are guided by two experts in the field.

Speaker 2 (35:42):
So big big thanks, of course to Eves and Katie.
Do check out their show on theme and also join
us for part two of our special episode on the
history of music and racism and minstrel shows, and we
promise it's not complete downer for sure.

Speaker 4 (36:02):
Huge thanks to super producer Max Williams his brother Alex Williams,
who composed our theme. Eaves Jeff Coats here in person,
no longer in spirit, but you know future spiritual occurrences
are likely.

Speaker 2 (36:16):
Big big thanks to Jonathan Strickland aka the quizter AJ
Jacobs or I should say AJ Bahamas Jacobs. And speaking
of breaking news, we just heard back from doctor Rachel Lance,
who looks forward to returning and teaching us more about
underwater explosions, still one of my favorite areas of expertise

we've run into in the course of this show.

Speaker 4 (36:38):
One of our favorite collective flexes to mention that we
know someone is expert in this seemingly beyond niche field,
but I can't wait to Yeah, we talked about the
sinking of the Hunley, a Confederate submarine that's been years
at this point, so man I can't wait to see
what she's been up to.

Speaker 2 (36:58):
Yes, and she has a new book that is on
the way. She'll tell us all about it. In the meantime.
Do check out on Theme and join us for a
future episode.

Speaker 3 (37:09):
We'll see you next time, folks.

Speaker 4 (37:17):
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