Every Race Has A Flag But The Coon

Album: Music from the New York Stage (1900)
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  • Although "Every Race Has A Flag But The Coon" was written by two white men, who almost certainly had their tongues firmly in their cheeks when they put pen to paper, this doubtful ditty actually inspired the creation of a Pan-African flag.

    The latter half of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries saw the rise of two black leaders who saw far beyond the calls for integration and assimilation by attempting to literally drag blacks up from slavery by their bootstraps. One of these men was Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), an educator as well as a politician; the other was Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), who among other things founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association. In 1920, Garvey's organization created the Pan-African Flag, and the man himself said: "Show me the race or the nation without a flag, and I will show you a race of people without any pride. Aye! In song and mimicry they have said, 'Every race has a flag but the coon.' How true! Aye! But that was said of us four years ago. They can't say it now..."

    Though Washington's greatness would soon be universally acknowledged, the Jamaican-born Garvey's ideas of black economic independence and separatism didn't go down at all well with the powers-that-be, and in 1923 he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment after being railroaded by the FBI for mail fraud. Although he died without even coming close to realizing his dream, in 1964, Garvey's remains were exhumed from Kensal Green Cemetery in London where he died, and returned to his native Jamaica. In November 1964, he was officially proclaimed Jamaica's first National Hero. His remains were re-interred at a shrine in National Heroes Park.
  • "Every Race Has A Flag But The Coon" was written by lyricist Will A. Heelan and composer J. Fred Helf; it was published originally at New York by Jos. W. Stern in 1900, when the coon song was at its very peak. According to the cover of one printing of the sheet music, it was sung by Lottie Gilson, Marie Dressler, Williams and Walker, Frances Curran, Hodges and Launchmere, and many others. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2
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