“Run, Nigger, Run”


Chorus: "Run, nigger, run, The (calaboose/patter-roller) will get you. Run, nigger run...." Various verses on the life of the slave, usually pertaining to punishment and perhaps the run to freedom


In Lomax we find the following explanation (quoted at several hands' remove):

"Just after the Nat Turner Insurrection in 1832 the Negroes were put under special restrictions to home quarters, and patrolmen appointed to keep them in, and if caught without a written pass from owner they were dealt with severely then and there; hence the injunction to 'Run, Nigger, Run, the Patter-roller Git You' to the tune of 'Fire in the Mountain....'" - RBW

Cross references


  • Dr. Humphrey Bate & His Possum Hunters, "Run Nigger, Run" (Brunswick 275, 1928)
  • Fiddlin' John Carson, "Run Nigger, Run" (OKeh 40230, 1924)
  • Sid Harkreader & Grady Moore, "Run Nigger Run" (Paramount 3054, 1927)
  • Uncle Dave Macon, "Run, Nigger, Run" (Vocalion 15032, 1925)
  • Mose "Clear Rock" Platt, "Run, Nigger, Run" (AFS 196 A1, 1933; on LC04)
  • Gid Tanner & his Skillet Lickers, "Run Nigger Run" (Columbia 15158-D, 1927)
  • Clint Howard, Gaither Carlton, Fred Price & Doc Watson, "Run, Jimmie, Run" (on WatsonAshley01)


  1. BrownIII 457, "Run, Nigger, Run" (4 texts plus an excerpt and mention of 2 more, all short and with hints of mixture but with this chorus)
  2. Randolph 264, "Run, Nigger, Run" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. SharpAp 248, "Run, Nigger, Run" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 225-226, "Run, Nigger, Run" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 264)
  5. Scarborough-NegroFS, p. 12, "Run, Nigger, Run" (1 text, 1 tune; it appears that this has mixed with something else, but the version isn't long enough to be sure what); also p. 24, "Run, Nigger, Run" (2 texts, 1 tune, both short); also p. 25, "Most Done Ling'rin Here" (1 text, 1 tune, with a verse from this plus the "If you get there before I do" floating verse and a chorus that might be "Rough, Rocky Road")
  6. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 228-231, "Run, Nigger, Run" (1+ texts, 1 tune)
  7. Botkin-AmFolklr, p. 906, "Run, Nigger, Run" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Roud #3660
  9. BI, R264


Alternate titles: “Paddy-Roller”; “Pateroller Song”; “Run, Boy, Run”; “Run, Johnny, Run”; “Run, Slave, Run”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1851 (Serenader's Song Book)
Found in: US(Ap,SE,So)