“We Live on the Banks of the Ohio”


"We live on the banks of the O-hi-o, O-hi-o, O-hi-o, Where the mighty waters rapidly flow And the steamboat sweeps along." "Ole Massa to his darkies is good... He gives us our clothers...." Slaves, being so well-treated (!), are encouraged not to "droop"


While the editors of Brown are probably right in considering this a "plantation melody" -- i.e. minstrel propaganda to keep the slaves in line -- it's worth noting that slaves in the border region *were* generally better treated.

This wasn't because slave owners there were more enlightened. The explanation is simple: With freedom within easy reach, slaves were more likely to bolt if harshly treated. Few slaves ever escaped from the deep south -- but by the time of the Civil War, it was nearly dead in more northerly states *simply because slaves couldn't be kept*. - RBW


  1. BrownIII 224, "We Live on the Banks of the Ohio" (1 text)
  2. BI, Br3224


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1910 (Brown)
Keywords: slave work river
Found in: US(SE)