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
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.
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.
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.