"Jazz Means Happy and Loose Like" (1917)

Mon Dec 3 21:01:56 UTC 2007

        "Rastus" seems to have been popularized by Brer Rastus, the
deacon of a colored church, in the story "Uncle Remus's Church
Experience," collected in Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus, His Songs
and His Sayings:  The Folk-Lore of the Old Plantation 190 - 93 (1881;
copyright 1880) (Google Books full text).  But Harris does not seem to
have invented the use.  Here's an earlier, passing example:

        "While Brudder 'Rastus Putts passes round de hat, de
congregashun will please sing de useal Ducksholiday to de same good ole

Professor Julius Caesar Hannibal [probably a pseudonym], Black Diamonds;
or, Humor, Satire and Sentiment, Treated Scientifically 15 (1857;
copyright 1855) (Google Books full text).

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Arnold M. Zwicky
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007 3:06 PM
Subject: Re: "Jazz Means Happy and Loose Like" (1917)

On Dec 3, 2007, at 11:59 AM, John Baker wrote:

>        I am skeptical of the Wikipedia account, as far as "Rastus" is
> concerned.  A Westlaw search shows that every recorded example of
> "Rastus" in reported legal cases before 1890 refers to Rastus Ransom,
> a prominent New York City lawyer, who likely was not black (newspaper
> articles of the period make no reference to his race, which they
> presumably would have if he had been black).  In contrast, names such
> as "Sambo" and "Cuffy" are found.  The available evidence suggests to
> me that the association of "Rastus" with blacks (i) did not occur in
> popular culture until the late 19th century and (ii) never had any
> factual basis.

excellent points.  but how did whites fix on "Rastus"?


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