The ‘Yellow’ Rose of Texas

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-03-20 03:36Z by Steven

The American folk song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” is but one testimony to the desire for mixed-race women.  The version of this song that most baby boomers were compelled to learn in grade school is devoid of its original reference to a mulatto slave woman, Emily Morgan (Horton 1993:137, Turner 1976), because through the decades the lyrics have been changed.

There’s a yellow rose in Texas that I am going to see,
No other darkey knows her, no darkey only me;
She cried so when I left her, it like to broke my heart,
And if I ever find her we never more will part.

She’s the sweetest rose of color this darkey ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew,
You may talk about your Dearest May, and sing of Rosa Lee,
But the yellow rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee.

The song was inspired by Morgan, who unwittingly played a decisive role in the defeat of General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón at San Jacinto.  According to Turner (1976), Morgan was a slave owned by Colonel James Morgan, who bought her in New York [City] and transported her to Texas in [October 25,] 1835.  There she was captured by General Santa Anna, whom she served as a concubine.  According to ethnologist William Bollaert, Sam Houston succeeded in a surprise attack in the battle of San Jacinto against Santa Anna, who was amorously engaged with Morgan.  While Morgan may have led to the demise of Santa Anna’s troups, she was also an inspiration for “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” which has become integral to American folk music.

According to Turner (1976:49) the song was “composed and arranged expressly for Charles H. Brown by J. K. …  Through the years the identity of the initialed composer or arranger has remained a mystery” (see original lyrics in Appendix E).  Throughout the ensuing decades, writers have changed the lyrics, and after the 1858 and 1906 versions (see Appendices F and G), the term “darky” disappeared altogether, thus obliterating the metaphor of the yellow “rose.”  While lyrics can easily be changed, the historical accounts, and, indeed the progeny of mixed unions cannot obscure the genetic record. Despite theories that promulgated the inferiority of African women, it was not unusual for Europen American men to engage in conjugal relations with these same women.

Obiagele Lake, Blue Veins and Kinky Hair: Naming and Color Consciousness in African America (Santa Barbara: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003), 21.

Read more about the “Yellow Rose of Texas” here.

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Blue Veins and Kinky Hair: Naming and Color Consciousness in African America

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2010-09-17 19:10Z by Steven

Blue Veins and Kinky Hair: Naming and Color Consciousness in African America

Praeger Publishers
160 pages
Trim Size: 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-89789-558-3
eBook ISBN: 978-0-313-05864-6

Obiagele Lake

The author explores how Africans in America internalized the negative images created of them by the European world, and how internalized racism has worked to fracture African American unity and thereby dilute inchoate efforts toward liberation. In the late 1960s, change began with the “Black Is Beautiful” slogan and new a consciousness, which went hand in hand with Black Power and pan-African movements. The author argues that for any people to succeed, they must first embrace their own identity, including physical characteristics. Naming, skin color, and hair have been topical issues in the African American community since the 18th century. These three areas are key to a sense of identity and self, and they were forcefully changed when Africans were taken out of Africa as slaves.

The author discusses how group and personal names, including racial epithets, have had far-reaching and deep-seated effects on African American self perception. Most of her attention, however, is focused on issues of physical appearance which reflect a greater or lesser degree of racial blending. She tells us about exclusive African American organizations such as The Blue Vein Society, in which membership was extended to African Americans whose skin color and hair texture tended toward those of European Americans, although wealthy dark-skinned people were also eligible. Much of the book details the lengths to which African American women have gone to lighten their complexions and straighten their hair. These endeavors started many years ago, and still continue, although today there is also a large number of women who are adamantly going natural. Her historical look at the cultural background to African American issues of hair and skin is the first monograph of its kind.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Renaming African People
  • Mulattoes and Color Consciousness in the United States
  • Hair and Color Consciousness in African America
  • Hair and Skin Color in Africa and the Africa and the African Diaspora
  • The Delinking of African Hair
  • Appendix A: Mixed Race Names
  • Appendix B: Percentage Selecting Traits Across Race Labels
  • Appendix C: Names Used by African Americans in U.S. History
  • Appendix D: African American Orginizations Bearing the term “African”
  • Appendix E: Original Version of “The Yellow Rose of Texas
  • Appendix F: Rendition of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”
  • Appendix G: “Yellow Rose of Texas” Marching Song
  • Appendix H: Brown Fellowship Society Members, 1790-1869
  • Appendix I: Brown Fellowship Society Slave Owners
  • Appendix J: Facts About Hairdressing Innovations
  • References Cited
  • Index
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