University of New Hampshire Bans Playing “Theoretically Racist” Song

The University of New Hampshire has banned the playing of the 1977 song “Black Betty” during the school’s interscholastic hockey matches. The song has been played at the start of the second and third periods at UNH hockey games for more than a decade.   The song, made popular in the late 1970s by the group Ram Jam, is “theoretically racist,” according to UNH athletics director Marty Scarano. “UNH is not going to stand for something that insults any segment of society.”

The lyrics supposedly were composed by Huddy “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, an African-American musician popular in the 1920s. When the song was recorded by Ram Jam in the 1970s, the NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality both urged consumers to boycott the song, claiming that it was demeaning to African-American women.   Readers can decide for themselves. Here are the complete lyrics to the song:

Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Black betty had a child (bam-ba-lam)
The damn thing gone wild (bam-ba-lam)
She said, "I'm worryin' outta mind" (bam-ba-lam)
The damn thing gone blind (bam-ba-lam)
I said oh, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)

Oh, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
She really gets me high (bam-ba-lam)
You know that's no lie (bam-ba-lam)
She's so rock steady (bam-ba-lam)
And she's always ready (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)

Get It!

Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
She's from Birmingham (bam-ba-lam)
Way down in Alabam' (bam-ba-lam)
Well, she's shakin' that thing (bam-ba-lam)
Boy, she makes me sing (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.