Long Tail Blue

LongTailBlue

Location: American Song Sheets Broadsides Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song: Long Tail Blue

Composer/Performer: Mr. T. B. Nathans

Publisher: Ashbel Stoddard

Year & Place: 1827, Hudson, NY

Collection/Call Number/Copies: bsvg200822

American Song Sheets Broadsides Item #: bsvg200822

Basic Description

The engraving that accompanies the lyrics of “Long Tail Blue” is a coarsely rendered, wide-eyed, grinning man, who is holding a riding crop alongside his head and wearing a striped suit with long coat tails.  Linear striations toward the bottom of his wide-legged stance suggest he is standing within a demarcated yet anonymous space.

Personal Description

The illustration approximates the lyrics in many respects and, yet, the figure’s insouciant gesture with the riding crop interjects a wry, authoritative element that’s submerged, rather than explicit, in the lyrics.  For all of the artistic crudeness and anatomical vacuity in this image, that subtle gesture of self-knowledge, humor, and dominion is fascinating and rather unexpected given the broadside’s racist context.

Reality Check

StephMyers

Stephen A. Myers (1800-?)

Stephen A. Myer of Albany, New York was the editor of the Northern Star and Freeman’s Advocate newspaper.  He was born into slavery in Rensselaer County, New York, but was freed by his master at eighteen.  After working as a grocer and steamboat steward, he began his career in journalism in 1842 by founding the Northern Star and Freedman’s Advocate.

In addition to publishing various temperance journals, he ran a temperance boarding house in Albany, NY and worked as general agent for the Delvan State Temperance Union of New York.  He advocated agrarian life as the practical foundation for black elevation.  His Albany station for the Underground Railroad had the reputation for being the best run part of the Underground Railroad in the state.  He also helped lead the struggle to expand black voting rights in New York.  Myers also spoke out against proposals to subsidize African colonization with state funds.

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