Sheet Music, 1834-1899


image preview


MUM00682, 0031


Cover: drawing of an African American male lying on a river bank, fishing line between his toes, waiting for a catch; description reads a Mississippi Cat-Fish Nig; Publisher: Frank Tousey's Publishing House (New York)

Subject Headings (Library of Congress)

Songs -- United States -- 19th Century; Popular Music -- United States

Relational Format

music score

Original Format


Original Collection

Sheldon Harris Collection (MUM00682), Archives and Special Collections, University of Mississippi Libraries


First verse
Once a little yaller nigger sat a fishin' on a dock, A fishin' for de fishes down below, And he waited fo' an hour, but he nebber got a bite, De catchin' it wasmighty, mighty slow Den dis little yaller nigger got disgusted with his luck, As he felt a drowsy feeling o'er him creep, So he tied the line onto his foot to wake him up in time Den he curled himself up and he went to sleep.
Down on de banks ob de Mississipps Ribber, Down on de ribber shore, Dere is just anudder nigger gone to Hebben, dat's all, An' he'll nebber go a fishin' any more
Second verse
bottom ob de ribber snoopin' round a bout de mud, Was a mornin' came, de neighbors walki' down de ribber shore, Found de daddy fish ob most de biggest size; Nebber thinkin' of little nigger fishin' up above Till he saw de bait before his very eyes Den he flipped his tail and fins, and gaily winked his other eye, And he said Dere is my dinner, sure as sin, Den he gave a little nibble, an' he swallow'd hook and all, And he pulled so hard he pulled de nigger in.
Third verse
mornin' came, de neighbors walkin' down de ribber shore, Found de fish and found de little nigger too, Tangled up and both together in de Mississippi mud, How it happen'd no one ever really knew And a question's nebber answer'd in dat little darkey town, Tho' to solve it is each neighbor's earnest wish, The conundrum, if the fish had caught de little yaller nig, Or de little yaller had caught de fish

Content Disclaimer

The derogatory terms, images, and ideas that appear in some of this sheet music are not condoned by the University of Mississippi. They do represent the attitudes of a number of Americans at the times the songs were published. As such, it is hoped that the sheet music in this collection can aid students of music, history, and other disciplines to better understand popular American music and racial stereotypes from the 19th- and early 20th-centuries.

Down on de Banks ob de Mississippi Ribber / music by Chas Coleman; words by R. A. Browne



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.