Friday, 27 April 2007

YesBut it was acceptable language then.


I endevour to avoid offensive language in my blogs. It is used only when unavoidable in the context of the subject of the blog. Today’s blog does contain very offensive racist language. To enable you to choose whether to read the offensive passage, a further warning is given immediately prior to the offending four lines in the blog.

At the weekend I came across an autograph book given to my maiden aunt on her 17th birthday in 1919. The pages are filled with messages, sketches but mainly poems written there by her friends. All very innocent. Her own entry was the verse:
The eye that never shed a tear
A now rusty sawing needle is threaded through the page.

On another page, IR in July 1920, stuck an envelope on a page, outside is writtenFor Ladies Only”, lift up the flap and inside is written “Aren’t Men Inquisitive?”

On the last page Elsie Davies on 4th August 1919 wrote:

By hook or by crook I will be the last To write in your book.

D. Jones wrote:
Smile awhile
And while you smile, another smiles
And soon, there’s miles and miles of smiles
And life is worth while
While you smile.

All very innocent, which makes turning the page and reading the next verse written by A. Williams, even more shocking and offensive:

God made the niggers
He made them in the night
He made them in a hurry
And forgot to make them white.

Let me place the verse in the context of the time and the people who wrote in the book. My Aunt was born in 1902 into a Welsh devout protestant (non-conformist) Christian working class family. The family members and her friends would have worshipped at a Welsh Methodist Chapel at least twice on Sundays and in addition attended two Bible Study / Pray meetings each week.

Each week they would have made a financial contribution to the Methodist Missionary Society to “help the poor little blacks in Africa and the little slant-eye yellow children in far off China”. The money would have been given, to compensate for God’s failure to have ensured that these poor children hadn’t been born Christian, and in gratitude that they had been born not only into a Christian family but also Welsh - and everybody knows they only speak Welsh in heaven.

Unlike today, the verse would not have attracted any undue attention - “poor little black children they deserve our love and sympathy”.

3 comments:

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

My Mummy has an autograph book from when she left Junior school in 1979. Wun of her classmates had been writing this very same verse in everyone's books, but when she came to write it in Mummy's, the whistle for the end of break was blown and they had to go back to class. So she only ever got the first line written in. It was interesting for her to read how the verse ended after so many years. But as you say, not very nice, really.

Bob :@}

YesBut said...

Hi Bob
I’m really astonished that the verse was still in general circulation as late as 1979.
I thought the use of the “n” word became an absolute no no in the 60s’

YesBut

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

Not sure about general circulation, it was just this one girl that was writing it. Mummy thinks the girl's parents probably said it and she picked it up.

Bob :@}