“Sleepy” and Jack – The 1937 Davidson College football halftime act of a Cotton-Picking scene done to the tune of “Old Black Joe” vs Harvard University

A historical look back at when young African American boys traveled with Davidson College, as a halftime act, for the football game with Harvard University in 1937.  The halftime act was a cotton picking scene done to “Old Black Joe”, a song composed by by Stephen Forster (1826–1864) and published by Firth, Pond & Co. of New York in 1860.

The boys names were “Sleepy” a 15 year old and Jim Edwards (Jack) an 11 year old, named after the boxer Jack Johnson. These boys traveled with Davidson College’s band, as the newspapers described as extra baggage on the bus. 

Following the appointment of Adolf Hitler as German chancellor on January 30, 1933, the Nazi state (also referred to as the Third Reich) quickly became a regime in which citizens had no guaranteed basic rights. The Nazi rise to power brought an end to the Weimar Republic, the German parliamentary democracy established after World War I. Buchenwald Concentration Camp opened in 1937. At the same time the United States was fully engaging in hateful behaviors toward African Americans, with full Jim Crow (American Apartheid) and other economic discriminatory practices.

Davidson College is located in a northern suburb just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Founded by Concord Presbytery, Davidson College opened as a manual labor institute in 1837. The college’s name memorializes General William Lee Davidson, who died at the nearby Revolutionary War battle of Cowan’s Ford in 1781. General Davidson’s son provided the initial acreage for the campus.

In 2021-2022 the official enrollment of Davidson College was 1,973 with 28% of its domestic students being of color. 

Davidson College had an endowment totaling $1.41 billion as of December 31, 2021 and is one of the wealthiest small colleges.

The Davidson Wildcats football program currently competes in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and are members of the Pioneer Football League.

Video: A former enslaved African record discussing the song “Old Black Joe”


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1937 Davidson College - African Americans Sleepy and Jack

1937 Davidson College and Harvard University - New York City Sleepy and Jack

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