Ten Little Nigger Boys

I was reading Atlanta Black Star’s interesting, but as the title says ‘Disturbingly Racist Children’s Books’ that were around in the early 20th century. The link can be found here: 8 Disturbingly Racist Children’s Books Designed to Devalue Black People

ten-little-niggers-boys

What most shocked me was the nursery rhyme counting book called ‘Ten Little Nigger Boys’ which taught white children to count. The book ran for many editions and was still being published as late as 1956!

It was also set to music. A version can be found here on YouTube: Ten Little Nigger Boys Song

Depicted in the book are caricatures of black boys who are eliminated by a series of gruesome events, counting down from ten to the last one.

 Nursery Rhyme about Ten Little Niggers

Ten little nigger boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self, and then there were nine.

Nine little nigger boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself, and then there were eight.

Eight little nigger boys traveling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there, and then there were seven.

Seven little nigger boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in half, and then there were six.

Six little nigger boys playing with a hive;
A bumble-bee stung one, and then there were five.

Five little nigger boys going in for law;
One got in chancery, and then there were four.

Four little nigger boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one, and then there were three.

Three little nigger boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one, and then there were two.

Two little nigger boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up, and then there was one.

One little nigger boy living all alone;
He got married, and then there were none.

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Author: Descartes Baker

Graduate in English with Creative Writing. Loves Victorian literature, poetry, watching the clouds go by, travelling, numismatics, and reading long forgotten and obscure novels.

11 thoughts on “Ten Little Nigger Boys”

  1. You probably know that this rhyme was used by Agatha Christie as the basis of one of her most famous novels, that later had it’s name changed to ‘And Then There Were None’…

  2. Good Lord! that’s Rather disgusting. I’m not surprised, though. At the Holocaust Museum in DC there’s a display of children’s books the Nazis used to teach the German kids to hate the Jewish people. Just sort of makes you go, REALLY???

    1. Oh, wow! That really isn’t good! Thankfully the racist children’s books are extremely rare today and can sell in excess of $1000 to collectors. Since they were once very popular, I would like to assume that people put the books in their rightful places once society became a little more enlightened – IN THE TRASH!

      1. Amen! Except that even as I say that there’s a part of me that says, that makes plausible deniability possible. I think of that often with the Holocaust. Look how many people don’t even believed that happened. Without those kinds of evidences they might could get away with that. I often think about that with the Native American Holocaust that this country has been hell-bent on denying by claiming manifest destiny and all that garbage.

      2. Absolutely. The world has to take a big look at itself and learn from the past, not deny these things. We had a similar situation with Britain during the Second Boer War. There were many disgusting concentration camps set up by the British, just swept away like nothing happened, with little mention in the history books 😦

  3. We sang a song about “10 Little Indians” back in the 60s (in Canada). I don’t remember how it goes, but it also was used for counting. And I seem to recall singing it in school, although my memory could be wrong.

    But I too think that it is important that we don’t just throw these books and songs away. We need to keep them to remember, to teach, so that the younger generations can understand what went on before, and how to move forward from it.

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