This was written by the American songwriter Stephen Foster, who first published it in 1850. Like Foster's "Oh! Susanna
," it's a minstrel song, making fun of black people in America. While this seems horribly racist, songs like this were common at the time and were usually performed at minstrel shows with performers in blackface, notably by The Christy Minstrels. In modern times, any racial overtones have been stripped from the song and it remains a popular tune, especially with children.