Timeline Capsule
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Time Capsule Details | BeingBlackToday.com
1931
NORTH AMERICA CONTINENT

Racial Slur Featured in
Mainstream Hit Recording
That's Why Darkies Were Born

Nearly 100 years after the upcropping of free states  in the United States, African-descended people were still primarily persona non grata, held under ridicule and regarded as unwelcomed

In 1931, the popular song writing team of Ray Henderson and Lew Brown (Louis Brownstein), wrote “That’s Why Darkies Were Born”.  Based upon all accounts, the song was not written as an expression of racism, but was intended as conciliatory satire.  It was a mainstream effort, which became a “number one” hit for Kate Smith, one of the most popular singers of the time.  And later, it was also recorded by Paul Robeson, a notoriously popular ‘Black’ singer, actor, and social activist.

Kate Smith, Singer
1907 – 1986

Someone had to pick the cotton,
Someone had to pick the corn,
Someone had to slave and be able to sing,
That's why darkies were born;

Someone had to laugh at trouble,
Though he was tired and worn,
Had to be contented with any old thing,
That's why darkies were born;

Sing, sing, sing when you're weary and
Sing when you're blue,
Sing, sing, that's what you taught
All the white folks to do;

Someone had to fight the Devil,
Shout about Gabriel's Horn,
Someone had to stoke the train
That would bring God's children to green pastures,
That's why darkies were born.

Paul Robeson Rendition:

Paul Robeson, Singer, Actor
Social Activist, Lawyer, Athlete
1898 - 1976


The Writers:

Ray Henderson
1896 - 1970
Ray Henderson
1896 - 1970
Ray Henderson was a popular composer in Tin Pan Alley, an area Manhattan, New York where music publishers and songwriters gravitated and set up business. Working with many lyricists, and primarily with Lew Brown and Buddy De Sylva, he compiled a long list of popular hits.

Lew Brown (Louis Brownstein) wrote songs for many of the top artists of the day and wrote or co-wrote several Broadway shows.

Together, some of their most popular songs include: Bye Bye Blackbird, It All Depends on You, The Best Things in Life Are Free, You're The Cream in my Coffee, Button Up Your Overcoat, You Are My Lucky Star, Keep Your Sunny Side Up, If I Had A Talking Picture of You