Many white musicians gained wealth and fame from performing negro spirituals and work songs


The famous rock n roll artist of the 1960s by the name of Elvis Presley, gained fame by copying many songs that were played by slaves for hundreds of years as spiritual sustenance and a means of hard labor inspiration. He had heard the songs around his town and performed them as a kid and maybe someone said let's make this kid famous.

The song "Black Betty" is one such song. The original song started as a work song by freed slaves in the early 20th century. Though its roots may even extend beyond that into the 19th. The song, like many early blues songs, has ties to the great songwriter and performer Lead Belly though the true origin, like many slave era songs, is unknown.

John A. and Alan Lomax  wrote in the 1934 book titled, American Ballads and Folk Songs, that "Black Betty" is the whip that was and is used in some Southern prisons. There are several more references in early 20th century writings to the term referring to a whip. Still, others refer to it as a synonym for the “Black Maria,” which was a term used for the automobile that transferred prisoners to their holding centers. All that confusion led to a boycott call by the NAACP in 1977 when the British band "Ram Jam" released their rendition, and it was used by numerous far-right white nationalist groups as their march against black people. The boycott was unsuccessful and the that caused the track to gain greater attention and sales in an act of spite.