In a manuscript written in 1925 entitled “Hitherto Unpublished Songs of New Orleans Louisiana” and held in the State Library of Louisiana, Ruth Harrison discusses a fascinating song in which the banjo itself becomes complicit in a discussion of the politics of color and class in the city.

 

“Getee’ ce mu-le la ‘tit banjo

Com’il est insolen!

Soulier quit fait cric-cric,

‘Tit banjo

Une badine a la main

Neg ce pas so’ cousin!”

 
“When the negro sang, and had something to say of a confidential nature, he always addressed a banjo, real or imaginary, as if it were some comfort to be certain of an unprotesting and it is to be supposed sympathetic audience. That is why, in the translation, there is the refrain, ‘my banjo’:

 

“Look at that mulatto there, my banjo

My but he is grand!

With his shoes going cric-cric, my banjo,

And a cane in his hand.

A n****r his cousin?

He won’t say that!

As fine as he is,

With his cocked hat?”