Musical Theater Project

Research the history of the popular tunes “Old Dan Tucker”, “Turkey in the Straw”, or “Oh Susannah!” Who composed these tunes, and what messages, either overt or covert do they convey? What are the implications of contemporary performances of such repertoire?


“Old Dan Tucker” is believed to have been derived from oral tradition, however; the words were more than likely written by Daniel Decatur Emmett. It became popular through the Virginia Minstrels, a blackface group. The song is about Dan Tucker ending up in a strange town, where he fights, gets drunk, overeats, and breaks other social restrictions. Dan Tucker, a black man, is portrayed as an animalistic character and drunk who is driven by sex and violence. He is also characterized as ugly, crude, and unintelligent. It was preformed in black face with exaggerated African American dialect; this song portrays a message of what the white middle class thought of black men/people at this time. They saw us as animals, ugly, drunks, unintelligent, and unable.

by Jiana Barnes

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