The Racist Origin Of That Ice Cream Truck Melody Revealed (AUDIO) (NSFW)

Ice Cream Racism

The innocent melody used by ice cream trucks across America has a darker side, rooted in racial stereotyping. – CC by Stephen Korecky

Warning – This article is about a blatantly racist song, containing vulgar language.

The hot summer days are growing longer, and you know what that means: the return of the Ice Cream Truck and that little ditty it belts out at full volume to call people to it. While it is known by many names, such as “Turkey in the Straw,” it has another, darker affiliation.

Around the same time that Turkey in the Straw appeared so too did another song using the same melody, “Zip Coon.”

Derived from the old Irish folk tune “The Old Rose Tree,” this melody was popularized by noted blackface performer George Washington Dixon in the 1820’s. Zip Coon was the foundation for an entire stereotype of black Americans, one which persists to this day.

However, how did this melody become associated with ice cream? It turned out that it had to do with the watermelon stereotype, when the tune was adapted with new lyrics to make the song “Nigger Love A Watermellon Ha! Ha! Ha!” which you can hear the 1916 recording of by Harry C. Brown below, which began with the following exchange.

Browne: “You niggers quit throwin’ them bones and come down and get your ice cream!”
Black men (incredulously): “Ice Cream?!?”
Browne: “Yes, ice cream! Colored man’s ice cream: WATERMELON!!”

At this point, the melody began its affiliation with ice cream, by its use in what may have been one of the most blatantly racist songs ever. The almost cheerful use of the word “Nigger” in the chorus forever ruined the previously mere annoyance of the jingle. Rather than overpriced frozen treats, a reminder of the images of blackfaced performers perpetuating a horrifying stereotype which are part of the song’s history has been dug up.

Ultimately, the tune is a horrible reminder of the intellectual dishonesty which we all are guilty of. Our history is rife with similar depictions, or racism, bigotry, and hatred. What needs to be asked is, does this past define us today? Sadly, it still plagues us, with segregation still an issue for schools, racist language considered acceptable speech by some and even racist depictions of the nations first African American president accepted at public events. This musical history is a reminder that racism is still among us, and until we say no more, it will continue to plague our nation.