John C. Calhoun Be Illin’ Boy

How about a rappin’ Nat Turner, John Calhoun, Harriet Tubman or Abraham Lincoln for your history classroom? 

John C. Calhoun

I’m John C. Calhoun, and I love the South,
the Senator from South Cakalak, reppin’ the South.
They don’t know me in the North, but they try to play me,
states’ rights best thing since grits n’ gravy.
I believe firmly in the goodness of slavery.
Northerners who hate it, I think they have rabies.
Never before have Africans been so civilized,
never before have they found the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Northerners don’t pay workers enough to eat,
we don’t pay slaves, at least they have a place to sleep.
We must maintain the status quo for whites and blacks
‘cause if we ever let them free, they’re going to attack!
Dred Scott decision was right, what belongs to me,
whether slave or mule, is my property.
We’re chivalrous but don’t mess with us, abolitionists,
we’ll cane you on the Senate floor.

We won’t take no or maybe,

We’re gonna end this slavery…

I’m not sure I agree with Howard Zinn that, “This is an extraordinary teaching tool for the next generation”, but it sure is hilarious.

16 comments… add one
  • Kevin Levin Jul 13, 2008 @ 11:50

    Hi Matthew, — Thanks for referencing a true classic.

  • matthew mckeon Jul 13, 2008 @ 11:42

    I can see why folks are angry about rap versions of historical figures and events. I’m still steamed about “The Battle of New Orleans.” Damn that Johnny Horton and his banjo strumming ways!

  • Kevin Levin Jul 13, 2008 @ 9:01

    Thanks for the condescending attitude. Please understand that this will be the last comment that I allow you to publish on this particular post. I have no idea why you are upset with me nor do I care to know at this point.

  • Sherree Jul 13, 2008 @ 8:56

    And best of luck to you as well, Kevin. Perhaps one day you will understand what I am talking about. I was fighting racism when you were most likely very young. I was also working for progressive causes, among them helping to spearhead letter writing campaigns to make the Clean Water Act more than just words. Along the way I learned that radicalism is radicalism, whether it be the radicalism of the far left or the radicalism of the far right: both are dictatorial, didactic, and self serving. You are not espousing a political view on your blog, nor are you radical in your views. You do have a point of view, however, as we all do. As an historian and a teacher of history, to question your own point of view would seem to be a valuable exercise. Just a thought to mull over. Again, best of luck to you, too, Kevin.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 13, 2008 @ 6:20

    Sorry to hear that. Take care and best of luck to you.

  • Sherree Jul 13, 2008 @ 6:14


    You just lost all respect that I had for you, which was considerable–not that respect matters today to a lot of people. Instead of considering that there might be a valid point of view expressed, you instead lined up a rebuttal worthy of Fox News. I am going to do as you suggested and turn the channel off and go elsewhere for information. Thanks indeed for the education.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 12, 2008 @ 19:26

    Hi Lisa, — Glad to see that someone found it funny. Nice to hear from you.

  • Lisa Jul 12, 2008 @ 18:39

    I think it’s hilarious. Especially if you listen to the song on the link, Lincoln sounds like one of the Beastie Boys, lol.

    All I can say, is this “grits n’ gravy” Southern girls tries not to take things (including herself) too seriously. It just makes life dull and boring…..

    Thanks for posting this!

  • Kevin Levin Jul 12, 2008 @ 6:26

    My interests happen to be in the history of the American South. I happen to live in Virginia and much of what I research and publish is centered on its history. To suggest that I am anti-South simply because you can’t find much on the history of slavery outside the South tells me more about you than it does about the content of what I post and publish.

    The more interesting issue at hand is why you continue to visit and spend time reading through my posts given your concerns about my so-called bias. What I find truly fascinating is that the people who spend the most time on this site also happen to be my most vocal detractors. Is it that you (as well as others), in fact, do find something redeeming here? It seems to me that if you didn’t see anything of value you would choose to spend your time elsewhere.

  • border Jul 11, 2008 @ 22:27

    “To be honest, I am tired of hearing from people that I am in the business of attacking anything. Yes, I do offer critiques, but this should not be mistaken for anger or hatred directed at any specific group.”


    …then let’s see something on the New England slave trade…or slavery and slave codes in New York and New Jersey.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2008 @ 10:04

    Thank you for clarifying, but you need to go back and re-read your comment as it seems to be clearly directed at me. Of course there are inaccuracies in the lyrics; it is not intended as a work of history. As for it being about “ignorant Southerners” I will leave that one along apart from saying that I disagree. Thanks again for your comments.

  • Sherree Jul 11, 2008 @ 9:22

    It is the overall tone and attitude of the rap that I find offensive. I don’t believe that you view the rap as offensive, however, or you wouldn’t post it.

    The rap isn’t just about John C. Calhoun; it is about all of those ignorant Southerners without any teeth who think that “states’ rights best thing since grits n’ gravy”. There are a good half dozen stereotypes in the rap.

    I am sure there will be fourteen other people who write in to you with a different take, and that is all part of the discussion. This is just my opinion, and, as before, I thank you for considering it, and I thank you for maintaining this blog!

  • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2008 @ 8:57

    Sherree, — Again, I appreciate your words of support, but I honestly do not understand why you choose to characterize this post as vilifying the South. Whose South do you speak of? I agree that the lyrics run rough shod over certain historical themes, but at other times it hits the nail on the head. Consider the lyrics in the Calhoun rap:”Never before have Africans been so civilized,
    never before have they found the Lord, Jesus Christ.
    Northerners don’t pay workers enough to eat,
    we don’t pay slaves, at least they have a place to sleep.” Now go out and pick up a copy of George Fitzhugh’s _Cannibals All!_, which is one of the most interesting pro-slavery accounts from the antebellum period.

    To be honest, I am tired of hearing from people that I am in the business of attacking anything. Yes, I do offer critiques, but this should not be mistaken for anger or hatred directed at any specific group.

  • Sherree Jul 11, 2008 @ 8:41

    You’re welcome. You are doing a service maintaining this blog, and the historians who have undertaken the challenge of correcting the Lost Cause view of the Civil War are also doing a service–a service for the entire nation. You, and those historians, undermine the good that you do, however, when you continually vilify and ridicule the South. Then you become what you are supposed to be fighting. You, and others quoted on this blog, have said that history is a narrative. The writing of a narrative, of necessity, involves point of view. Hopefully, as history is continually reevaulated in light of new evidence, the point of view of this new narrative of American history will be as complex as history itself is, and will also be as objective as is possible.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2008 @ 8:14

    Thanks for the kind words. Perhaps I should have said that I find it entertaining.

  • Sherree Jul 11, 2008 @ 8:10

    Hi Kevin,

    I have been following your blog regularly. It is truly very interesting and educational.

    I have one question. Why do you find this rap hilarious? I am just curious.

    I am not a Neo-Confederate. I do not admire John C. Calhoun. I do not hold the ludicrous belief that the tens of thousands (millions?)of African Americans who lived and died under the “institution” of slavery were happy to be enslaved. And I do not find this hilarious.

    I just want to understand your point of view.

    Thank you.

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