White men regarded as oppressors of blacks.
An article by John Cowley, "Shack Bullies and Levee Contractors: Bluesmen as Ethnographers," in The Journal of Folklore Research, vol. 28, nos. 2/3, pp. 135-162, recounts the story of the Lowrence family, a set of seven brothers, the oldest named Charley, who were notorious contractors of cheap labor, mostly African American, to build the levees alongside the Mississippi in the 1920's. A number of songs quoted in the article refer to "Mr Charley" specifically in this context, giving rise to speculation on the part of Alan Lomax that he may have "discovered the identity of the elusive "Mr. Charley." Cowley's article goes on, however, to quote a comment by Alan Dundes on Lomax' article that 'Mr. Charley' "would appear to date from antebellum times." But the repeated reference to a "Mr. Charley" by southern bluesmen was undoubtedly in reference to Charley Lowrence.
Mr. Charlie, I hear--I hear the niggers is free, is that right?
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