Saturday, November 29, 2014

If You Miss Me At The Back Of The Bus (civil rights song)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides lyrics and a video of the civil rights song "If You Miss Me At The Back Of The Bus".

The content of this post is presented for cultural and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

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COMMENTS ABOUT THIS SONG
Unlike most of the songs that were sung during the African American civil rights movement of the 1960s, the words to "If You Miss Me At The Back Of The Bus" wasn't adapted from a Spiritual -although its tune was. Also, unlike most of civil rights songs, "If You Miss Me At The Back Of The Bus" has a known composer. That song was composed by Charles Neblett (aka Seku Neblett). Although there's a known composer of this song, all of the lyrics to the song aren't fixed. As is true of other civil rights songs, other verses can be added or substituted to fit the issue or cause being protested or to illustrate the singer's resolve to protest.

The verse about being missed at the back of the bus refers to the Jim Crow law that required Black people to sit in the back of public buses, and even to relinquish those seats if any White person came on the bus and would otherwise be without a seat. The words to this song indicated that the singer was challenging that law and other discriminatory laws mentioned, such as Black people being unable to swim in public pools with non-Black people.

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LYRICS: IF YOU MISS ME FROM THE BACK OF THE BUS
(adapted from the song composed by Charles Neblett of the Freedom Singers to the tune of "O Mary Don't You Weep.")

If you miss me at the back of the bus
If you can't find me back there
Come on up to the front of the bus
I'll be sittin right there
I'll be sittin right there
Come on up to the front of the bus
I'll be sittin right there

If you can't find me in the school room
If you can't find me in there
Come on out to the picket line*
I'll be standin right there
I'll be standin right there
Come on out to the picket line
I'll be standin right there

If you can't find me in the picket line
If you can't find me out there
Come on down to the jail house
I'll be singin in there
I'll be singin in there
Come on down to the jail house
I'll be singin in there

If you can't find me in jail house
If you don't see me in there
Come on over to the church yard
I'll be prayin out there
I'll be prayin out there
Come on over to the church yard
I'll be prayin out there.
-snip-
*picket line = the demonstrations (protest marches)

Here are some additional verses from the 1963 book Sing Out! , a publication of civil rights songs edited by Guy and Candie Carawan, published by Oak Publications; New York ; p. 50; {Library of Congress Number 63-23278}:

If you miss me from the front of the bus,
and you can't find me nowhere,
Come on up to the driver's seat,*
I'll be driving up there. etc.

If you miss me from Jackson State,**
and you can't find me no where
Come on over to Ole Miss,
I'll be studyin' over there. etc.

If you miss me from knockin' on doors***
and you can't find me nowhere
Come on down to the registrar's room,
I'll be the registrar there. ect.

If you miss me from the cotton field,
and you can't find me nowhere.
Come on down to the court house,
I'll be voting right there. etc

If you miss me from the picket line,
and you can't find me nowhere.
Come on down to the jail house,
I'll be rooming down there. etc.

If you miss me from the Mississippi River
and you can't find me nowhere
Come on down to the city pool
I'll be swimming in there. etc.
-snip-
* Come on up to the driver's seat = Protests included quality jobs such as bus drivers for African Americans
** Jackson State- a historically Black university; "Ole Miss" a nickname for the University of Mississippi, which at that time did not accept Black students.
*** knockin' on doors - to register Black people to vote

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COMMENTS FROM THE COMPOSER'S BROTHER AND FROM THE COMPOSER HIMSELF
From http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=36629&messages=101#2095880 "Back of the Bus" songs"
"If you miss me at the back of the bus" was composed and copywrited by Carver Neblett, aka, Seku Neblett . The original title was "If you miss me in the Mississippi River and you can't find me nowhere, come on down to the swimming pool and I'll be swimming down there". The song was written during a trial sourounding protest at the public swimming pool in Cairo, Illinois. The brother of one of the defendants drowned in the river because the public pool did not admit people of African decent. As the song spread throught the south, the people changed the the song into, "If you miss me at the back of the bus". Thank you, Seku Neblett, Charles Neblett's brother. -
-snip-
Comment from that same Mudcat post: "I am very much alive and still struggling for "The Liberation, and Unification of Africa and all of her scattered and suffering People and for the forward progress of the human family. Thank you," http://www.youtube.com/nkrumahseku" [Seku Neblett aka Carver Neblett aka Chico Ne]

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SHOWCASE VIDEOS If You Miss Me from the Back of the Bus (SNCC Freedom Singers)

Joe Germuska, Uploaded on Jan 19, 2008 From a performance on 10 Nov 2007 at Woodson Regional Library, Chicago, IL

Presented by Chicago Area Friends of SNCC and the SNCC History Project
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SNCC= Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights organizations whose members were mostly young adults.

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If You Miss Me From The Back Of The Bus

Posted by SongsOfFreedomKids, January 18, 2008

Kids in 2008 learning about and singing the classic song from the US Civil Rights Movement. "If You Miss Me from the Back of the Bus" was written by Charles Neblett of the Freedom Singers to the tune of "O Mary Don't You Weep."

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