Dusky Dinah


Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  Dusky Dinah: Cake-walk and patrol

Composer:  Sullivan, Dan J.

Illustrator:  Fisher, L.S.

Publisher:  Chas. Shackford

Year & Place:  1899, Boston, Massachusetts

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music B-308

Historic American Sheet Music Item #: hasm.b0308

Basic Description

An African American woman is shown seated on the branch of a tree, strumming a banjo and looking toward a spindly chicken standing beside her.  The round-faced woman wears bows on her shoes, on her neck, and sports a large hat with ostrich feathers.  The background for this scene (executed as a red and yellow lithograph) is a huge full moon and linear striations.

Personal Description

The red and yellow color scheme gives this image a light-hearted, playful air, as do the comical renderings of the woman and chicken.  Clearly, the illustrator is relying on the stereotypic idea of African Americans playing banjos and desiring chickens to the extreme, hence the ogling at the chicken.

Reality Check


Pauline E. Hopkins (1859-1930)

Boston, Massachusetts-based writer Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins is best known for four novels and numerous short stories which she published between 1900 and 1903. Her best-known work, the novel Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, was published in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1900 by the Colored Co-operative Publishing Company. Hopkins followed this first novel with three serialized novels – Hagar’s Daughter: A Story of Southern Caste Prejudice, Winona: A Tale of Negro Life in the South and Southwest, and Of One Blood; Or, The Hidden Self, which appeared in the Colored American Magazine. Through her editorial work, fiction, and a substantial body of nonfiction that addressed black history, racial discrimination, economic justice, and women’s role in society among other topics, she emerged as one of the era’s preeminent public intellectuals.


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