[Ads-l] Zigaboo (forerunner of Jigaboo) - antedated to 1914

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 22 20:34:01 UTC 2022

The earliest I had previously seen "Zigaboo” used to unambiguously refer to a black person was from 1917.

I had also seen an unexplained reference to “Zigaboo Land” in the left field bleachers of a baseball park in Memphis in 1914, and had wondered about whether it referred to a segregated section for black spectators.  Today I found separate references from 1915 and 1919 describing the left field bleachers in Memphis as the “negro bleachers,” confirming my suspicions about “Zigaboo Land.”

Interestingly, the unambiguous 1917 reference was from the same paper as the 1914 references to “Zigaboo Land.”

The 1914 references:

“McBride backed up against the left field bleachers to get McDermott’s fly in the tenth inning. Had “Red” put a few more pounds to the drive it would have landed in “Zigaboo” land.”  The Commercial Appeal (Memphis), May 25, 1914, page 9.

“His three hits had much to do with winning his game as he eventually scored on all three occasions. His first effort was a long drive which sailed into “Zigaboo Land” on a line and entitled the “German Barron” to canter around the bases unflagged.” The Commercial Appeal (Memphis), June 29, 1914, page 12.

The 1917 unambiguous reference, also from Memphis, was in a condescending poem about a black soldier who would only serve in the infantry, avoiding the navy, air corps, artillery and cavalry.

“The Place to Serve,” F. D. Beneke, Commercial Appeal (Memphis), July 8, 1917, page 5.  “Sam Green is a regular soldier man, Of African descent; The world is bright when Sam can fight With a Zigaboo regiment.”

I have a post up on my blog now about the history of “Jigaboo” and “Zigaboo,” and their apparent origin in a song called, “Rings on My Fingers, or Mumbo Jumbo Ji-ji-boo J. O’Shea.”


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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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