A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 21, 2014
“If you’re white, it’s all right”

American blues songwriter Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958) wrote in “Black, Brown and White” (1947):

“If you’re white, it’s all right --
If you’re brown, stick around—
But if you’re black,
Get back—get back—get back—”


The lines have been frequently cited to illustrate racism in the United States.


Wikipedia: Big Bill Broonzy
Big Bill Broonzy (June 26, 1893 – August 14 or 15, 1958) was a prolific American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist. His career began in the 1920s when he played country blues to mostly African-American audiences. Through the 1930s and 1940s he successfully navigated a transition in style to a more urban blues sound popular with working class African-American audiences. In the 1950s a return to his traditional folk-blues roots made him one of the leading figures of the emerging American folk music revival and an international star. His long and varied career marks him as one of the key figures in the development of blues music in the 20th century.

20 February 1948, Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL), “Old-Time Singer Speaks For Brotherhood of Man” by Bill Cumming, pg. 5, cols. 3-4:
The man is Bill Broonsy—Big Bill, they call him.
(...)
They go along with Big Bill when he brings whites and blacks together on equal grounds to hear his music. And when he gets sorrowful, they get sorrowful too, for then Bill lapses into his heartbreaking, ironical “Black, Brown and White:”

If you’re white, it’s all right --
If you’re brown, stick around—
But if you’re black,
Get back—get back—get back—


23 October 1948, The Berkshire Evening Eagle (Pittsfield, MA), “When You’re Black,” pg. 12, col. 4:
To the Editor of THE EAGLE --
The photograph in The Eagle of Oct. 15, showing the segregation practiced at the University of Oklahoma bears out the same old adage: If you’re white, you’re all right; if you’re brown, stick around; but if you’re black, get back, get back, get back!
(...)
ARTHUR WILLIAM GIBSON.
Pittsfield.

OCLC WorldCat record
BLACK, BROWN AND WHITE BIG BILL BLUES
Author: William Lee Conley Broonzy
Publisher: S.l. : s.n., 1953 (DL)
Edition/Format: Music : 78 rpm

20 August 1954, The Crusader (Rockford, IL), “Pen Tracks” by Joe Saunders, pg. 4, col. 1:
“If you’re white—all right!
If you’re yellow—mellow!
If you’re brown, stick around,
But if you’re black—get back!”

The above much quoted little verse was definitely one of the criterions of “The Concordians,” a group of upper middle class Negro women around whom Charles A. Smythwick Jr. has woven an interesting, thought-provoking, and revealing novel entitled ‘False Measure.”

9 July 1969, Topeka (KS) Messenger, “Blacks Get Negative Self Concept From What The Word Black Suggests,” pg. 2, col. 2:
The blacker your skin, the lower your place on the social ladder. Lyrics like the following gave support to this fact: “IF you are white, you’re alright. If you’re brown, stick around. But, if you’re black...stay back!”

Google News Archive
12 January 1970, Milwaukee (WI) Journal, “Blacks Walk Taller With New Awareness” by Jerold J. Jackson, pg. 2, col. 3:
If you white
You all right.
If you brown
Stick around.
But if you black
Get back.


Google Books
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
By John Bartlett
New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company
2012
Pg. 1619:
Big Bill Broonzy [William Lee Conley Bradley]
1898-1958
If you was white, should be all right,
If you was brown, could stick around,
But as you’s black, whoa brother,
Get back, get back, get back.
Black, Brown and White [1951]

Google Books
Staging the Blues:
From Tent Shows to Tourism

By Paige A. McGinley
Durham, NC: Duke University Press
2014
Pg. ?:
In fact, it was McGhee who had made the earliest recording of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Black Brown and White” in 1947, in which Broonzy made some of the most explicit commentary of his career about the state of racial inequality in the United States:

If you’re black, get back
If you’re brown, stick around
If you’re white, you’re all right.


The Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica)
Reset Button On Cuba
Published: Sunday | December 21, 2014
Ronald Mason, Contributor
(...)
Batista was reported as being a strict enforcer of the class divisions in the society. The old adage was most often adopted: ‘If you are white, you are all right; brown, stick around; black, turn back.’ When this is superimposed on a society that is predominantly black, any revolution that sought to change their status quo would be welcome.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Sunday, December 21, 2014 • Permalink