george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu May 20 16:00:06 UTC 2004
Jim Landau observes:
It would appear from "rowed by six negroes" that boat racing in New York
circa 1808 was racially segregated, or at least performed by racially segregated crews. I suggest therefore that "pumpkin boys" means "mulattos".
Everything in NYC circa 1808 was racially segregated. But there was not the sort of hierarchy of black, mulatto, quadroon, &c. observed in the south, so I doubt that "pumpkin lad" meant mulatto.
My guess would be that it means either New Englander or Long Islander -- Long Island having been settled by New Englanders. And in any event, that it refers somehow to the place of origin of the crew-members.
George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African
Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.
----- Original Message -----
From: "James A. Landau" <JJJRLandau at AOL.COM>
Date: Thursday, May 20, 2004 8:25 am
Subject: Re: pumpkin lads
> In a message dated Wed, 19 May 2004 18:14:02 -0400, George Thompson
> <george.thompson at NYU.EDU> quotes
> > This day, at 12 o'clock, two Boats, the YANKEE and the SNIPE,
> start from
> > Powles Hook to Courtlandt street wharf, for one hundred Dollars;
> the former
> > to be rowed with four, and the latter with six oars. The YANKEE
> is to be
> > rowed by four pumpkin lads, and is, as yet, the favorite. The
> SNIPE is
> > deceitful, and if not closely watched, will give her antagonist
> the DODGE.
> > Y Gazette & General Advertiser, February 16, 1808, p. 3, col. 1
> > I have seen reports on this race in several other newspapers,
> but none
> > any idea of what a "pumpkin lad" might be. A story in the
> Gazette the next
> > day included the interesting sidelight: "The Snipe was rowed by six
> > who pulled a good strong oar, but they were not so dexterous as
> the PUMPKIN
> > LADS." N-Y Gazette & General Advertiser, February 17, 1808, p.
> 3, col.
> It would appear from "rowed by six negroes" that boat racing in
> New York
> circa 1808 was racially segregated, or at least performed by
> racially segregated
> crews. I suggest therefore that "pumpkin boys" means "mulattos".
> Compare"yellow" as in "The Yellow Rose of Texas" (about the
> singer's mulatto girlfriend,
> the song quite possibly having been written by a darker-skinned
> African-American) meaning "light-skinned mulatto".
> Aside: it is interesting that "yellow" has been a racial epithet
> for at least
> two centuries now, but changed the race it was epitheting from
> African (or
> mixed African-white) to Asian.
> - James A. Landau
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