Colored man’s ice cream: WATERMELON!!”. The song even begins with a skit about ice cream: Browne: “You nigg*rs quit throwin’ them bones and come down and get your ice cream!” Notably, "Turkey in the Straw," a melody that — despite a long, racist past — has piped through the speakers of ice cream trucks and into American neighborhoods for decades. (For the record, not all ice cream trucks play this same song, but a great many of them do.). What are the racist origins of the ice cream truck song? The sight of my children enjoying a Good Humor ice cream bar will fight back the racist song that lampooned black people who happened to be in good humor. hide caption. Yeah we are too, but here’s the rest of the details to further jack up our childhood memories: He appeared on stage and in silent films and recorded for Columbia Records in the 1910s and 1920s.. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Harry C. Browne. With that said, you can only copy one paragraph of any of the works on the Onyx Truth to place on another site, but you still MUST link to the article on the Onyx Truth. Chicago-bred, New York-sculpted, his words and ideas have appeared in publications ranging from Spin and Rolling Stone to The Chicago Sun-Times and Arborist News. Ha!” ended up playing in ice cream trucks around the country, opposed to “Turkey in the Straw” or “Do Your Ears Hang Low?”: Browne meshed the theme of the popular coon cards with the familiar melody, and voilà: "Nigger Love a Watermelon Ha! America’s suburbs, and the story of the first black family to move in. Yet over the years, we as Americans have been so blinded by the excitement of scoring an ice cream bar or Italian ice cup that I don’t think anyone has ever pondered over exactly who created that timeless tune. And not to put decades of blame on Browne, but consider the opening lyric call-and-response: Browne: You niggers quit throwin’ them bones and come down and get your ice cream! I learned that though Browne was fairly creative in his lyrics… Whenever I hear the music now, the antique voice laughing about niggers and watermelon fills my head. The melody of the song is almost as old as America itself. However, when the reach of racism robs me of fond memories from my childhood, it feels intensely personal again. Zip Coon, and his countryfied counterpart Jim Crow, became some of the most popular blackface characters in the South after the end of the American Civil War, and his popularity spurred the popularity of this older song. Why Not R. Kelly? This story may well sour any pleasant childhood memories of chasing after ice cream trucks in the summer. Harry Clinton Browne (August 18, 1878 – November 15, 1954) was an American banjo player and actor. "Nigger Love A Watermelon Ha! I’m talking about the music that damn near every ice cream truck in America plays over it’s intercom to alert the neighborhood children to run inside & get some money so they can indulge themselves in a nice cool treat in the summer heat. 2. KUOW is the Puget Sound region’s #1 radio station for news. ", Black men (incredulously): "Ice Cream?!? Colored man’s ice cream: Watermelon! 1. iloveoldschoolmusic.com. Ha!" HA! container: 'taboola-right-rail-thumbnails', Great Black Nerd Fallacy on Black Nerds vs. the Black Community: Intellego Quid Metuunt, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Ha! In this day and age, few associate the iconic “ice cream song” or these other ditties with the legacy of blackface and racism in the United States, but their origins reveal the extent to which American culture has been shaped by racist portrayals of African-Americans. Sheridan Libraries/Levy/Gado/Getty ImagesSheet music cover image of ‘Turkey in the Straw A Rag-Time Fantasie’ by Otto Bonnell. The Lyrics Behind The Ice Cream Truck Song, It’s getting serious outchea... #Election2020 #E, Rapper Mysonne Crying Over Lil’ Wayne Supporting Trump, Lil’ Wayne Endorses Donald Trump for President, Walter Wallace Jr Won the GoFundMe Jackpot. Offended yet? RZA's new jingle is a marked departure from the 19th-century fiddle song. Other ice cream truck staples, like “Camptown Races,” “Oh! We need conversation like this so that we are not continuing to live in the dark and so that we all have a greater understanding of one another, which will allow us to continue to push the American culture forward. Ha! Flip the page to actually listen to the REAL song with the original lyrics that Columbia Records released in 1916. window._taboola = window._taboola || []; Browne: Yes, ice cream! Harry Clinton Browne (August 18, 1878 – November 15, 1954) was an American banjo player and actor. We humbly honor the old school soul music era and will keep pushing forward to keep it alive. The brand, owned by Unilever, made the announcement on Thursday that it's helping drivers learn about the racist roots of "Turkey in the Straw" and how to replace the music box in the truck that plays it. Feel free to share the content of the Onyx Truth by posting our links to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, email, or your preferred social media network. And this is the story of why our beloved ice cream truck plays blackface minstrel music that sends kids dashing into homes in a Pavlovian frenzy searching for money to buy a Popsicle. Colored man’s ice cream…WATERMELON!! Colored man’s ice cream: WATERMELON! The delivery of the cold hard truth can wait until another day. Then in 1916, American banjoist and songwriter Harry C. Browne put new words to the old tune and created another version called “N****r Love A Watermelon Ha! Image from “Zip Coon” sheet music depicting the blackface character. ", And as those lyrics make clear, it's a cruel caricature of a free Black man trying to join white society by "dressing in fine clothes and using big words," Johnson wrote. JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty ImagesAmerican ice cream parlor, 1915. All views expressed by contributors of the Onyx Truth website do not necessarily reflect the views of the Onyx Truth website owner. Good Humor says it's available to drivers starting this month, so stay tuned: Your next ice cream sandwich might be accompanied by some unexpected RZA beats. _taboola.push({ HA! A folk melody from the 19th century, “Turkey in the Straw” was popularized by minstrel shows in the United States until the 1930s, and a particularly racist variant of the tune was released by vaudeville actor Harry C. Browne in 1916, replacing the lyrics with stereotypes about Black people eating watermelons. Browne: Yes, ice cream! [quote_box_center], “19th century ice cream parlors played the popular minstrel songs of the day…A music box was installed in [ice cream trucks] as a way to announce their presence in neighborhoods. My mouth dropped. These songs appeared over ragtime tunes and presented an image of black people as rural buffoons, given to acts of drunkenness and immorality. Ha! (We won't write out the exact lyrics; you can find them for yourself here. He appeared on stage and in silent films and recorded for Columbia Records in the 1910s and 1920s. Gavin Paul is SONGLYRICS' Editor-in-Chief. Released:  March 1916 by Columbia Records, Browne:  “You n-words quit throwin’ them bones and come down and get your ice cream!”, Browne:  “Yes, ice cream! ?” Browne: “Yes, ice cream! These items were essentially the racist version of trading cards and were nearly ubiquitous. Do they wobble to and fro?”-has connections to a totally different song that was made popular years before a rhyme about your ears wobbling to and fro, NPR’s Theodore R. Johnson III explains: “‘Nigg*r Love A Watermelon Ha! When presents appear overnight under the fir tree, I say Santa Claus is the culprit. Turns Out The “Ice Cream Song” From Our Childhood Is Incredibly Racist. Stay connected with everything KUOW by signing up for our free, weekly Best of KUOW newsletter. We Insist: A Timeline Of Protest Music In 2020, Talking About Race And Ice Cream Leaves A Sour Taste For Some, most popular collectibles was the coon card, the poor black experience with ice cream trucks. Code Switch dove into the song's racist history in a blog post by Theodore R. Johnson III back in 2014. Good Humor hasn't actually operated any trucks since 1976, explains Russell Lilly, a senior director at the company, but wanted to be "part of the solution.". Is Cynthia G. Pregnant by a Dusty Beta Male? Before you can even see it, you hear it way off in the distance. Next, learn about the racist origins of America’s suburbs, and the story of the first black family to move in. The ice cream crossover happened concurrently: 19th century ice cream parlors played the popular minstrel songs of the day. Incredibly, the lyrics get worse from there. Ha!” And, unfortunately, the ice cream song was born. Released in March 1916 by Columbia Records, it was written by actor Harry C. Browne and played on the familiar depiction of black people as mindless beasts of burden greedily devouring slices of watermelon. "Turkey in the Straw" was initially a popular tune for fiddle players as early as 1820. Some folks may be confused by this news and might be thinking “Oh, so ice cream trucks are racist now?” NO not at all! Ha!” And, unfortunately, the ice cream song was born. Sheet music cover image of ‘Turkey in the Straw A Rag-Time Fantasie’ by Otto Bonnell. "Turkey in the Straw" was initially a popular tune for fiddle players as early as 1820. ), At the turn of the 20th century, one of the nation's most popular collectibles was the coon card — a postcard with racist artwork, such as bug-eyed, clown-face blacks eating watermelon. Is it my responsibility to foul the sweet taste of ice cream with their first taste of racism? Are climatologists studying the pandemic’s effect on Puget Sound? Zip Coon was the city-slicker counterpart to the dimwitted, rural blackface character whose name became infamous in 20th century America: Jim Crow. “Turkey in the Straw” is not alone among ice cream songs that were popularized or created as minstrel songs. Let’s be clear: We’re not saying that we should ban ice cream trucks, nor forget all of the beautiful memories we have of it. As he explained, "Turkey in the Straw" is a 19th century folk song that riffs on an Irish fiddle song, "The (Old) Rose Tree." (If this sounds similar to the Academy Award winning "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," it's because that song was derived from this chorus. The song was originally recorded by a man named Harry C. Browne and released in 1916, according to the Smithsonian . I wondered how such a prejudiced song could have become the anthem of ice cream and childhood summers. That familiar ice cream truck jingle has some pretty racist lyrics. When I started the song, the music that tumbled from the speakers was that of the ever-recognizable jingle of the ice cream truck.