“Ten Little Niggers”: The Making of a Black Man’s Consciousness
Tiffany M.B. Anderson
The Ohio State University
During Reconstruction in the 1860s, the proud Confederate states found themselves in a place of subordination. Forced to concede their free slave labor, the former citizens of the Confederacy refused to fold their ideology of the inferiority of the freed slaves. A “comic” song titled “Ten Little Niggers” circulated through the United States in Minstrel shows and children’s nursery rhyme books in keeping with this ideology.
This paper explores how the ballad shapes social and cultural race consciousness. While the purpose of its widespread popularity was to refute the competency and human qualities of the black freedmen to white audiences, the ultimate legacy that the rhyme leaves behind is the mental conditioning of following generations of black males. The white population who circulated the song intended to define the black freedmen as barbaric and ignorant, yet the song also connected the white-constructed definition of ‘nigger’ to the black man’s consciousness. Continue reading ““Ten Little Niggers”: The Making of a Black Man’s Consciousness”