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exodusPrinters’ Ink, July 26, 1923. Encouraged by the likes of the Chicago Defender and their own plain-as-day self-interest, Southern blacks began heading north in huge numbers in the Teens and Twenties, trading lynch law and cotton-picking debt-peonage for better paid urban industrial jobs and relative civil liberties. From the perspective of their erstwhile employers, this had to be the result of conspiratorial agitation by radicals and no-goodniks, who were messing with the minds of the impressionable colored folks. Hence the decision to fight back with this awesomely misconceived “Negroes, remember your place” propaganda campaign. EXODUS2A
“Old Black Joe” is a minstrel ditty composed by Stephen Foster in 1860. The lyrics are:

Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay,
Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away,
Gone from the earth to a better land I know,
I hear those gentle voices calling Old Black Joe.

I’m coming, I’m coming,
for my head is bending low,
I hear those gentle voices calling
Old Black Joe.

2nd verse
Why do I weep, when my heart should feel no pain,
Why do I sigh that my friends come not again?
Grieving for forms now departed long ago.
I hear those gentle voices calling Old Black Joe.


3rd verse
Where are the hearts once so happy and so free?
The children so dear that I held upon my knee?
Gone to the shore where my soul has longed to go,
I hear those gentle voices calling Old Black Joe.

I’m not sure how effective this would have been in discouraging sharecroppers from shaking the dust of the cotton fields off of their aching feet.


  1. The advert is incredibly wordy by today’s standards. I find it odd that someone would try to sway the plans of black laborers 100 years ago in the South with a long piece of text. It wouldn’t work well today, and evidently wouldn’t work well back then.

    • The whole thing is fundamentally bonkers, but what you’re reading here isn’t the ad campaign itself but a description of same published in the main trade organ of the national advertising trade. I’m dying to see what the ads themselves looked like. The tiny inset reproduction is too blurry for my failing eyes.

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