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Juke joint

The meaning of «juke joint»

Juke joint (also jukejoint, jook joint, or juke) is the vernacular term for an informal establishment featuring music, dancing, gambling, and drinking, primarily operated by African Americans in the southeastern United States. A juke joint may also be called a "barrelhouse".

Classic juke joints found, for example, at rural crossroads, catered to the rural work force that began to emerge after the emancipation.[1] Plantation workers and sharecroppers needed a place to relax and socialize following a hard week, particularly since they were barred from most white establishments by Jim Crow laws.

Set up on the outskirts of town, often in ramshackle, abandoned buildings or private houses — never in newly-constructed buildings — juke joints offered food, drink, dancing and gambling for weary workers.[2] Owners made extra money selling groceries or moonshine to patrons, or providing cheap room and board.

The term "juke" is believed to come from the Gullah word joog or jug, meaning rowdy or disorderly which itself is derived from the Wolof word dzug meaning to misconduct one's self.[3][4]

The origins of juke joints may be the community rooms that were occasionally built on plantations to provide a place for Black people to socialize during slavery. This practice spread to the work camps such as sawmills, turpentine camps and lumber companies in the early twentieth century, which built barrel-houses and chock-houses to be used for drinking and gambling. Although uncommon in populated areas, such places were often seen as necessary to attract workers to sparsely populated areas lacking bars and other social outlets. As well, much like "on-base" officer's clubs, such "Company"-owned joints allowed managers to keep an eye on their underlings; it also ensured that the employees' pay was coming back to the Company. Constructed simply like a field hand's "shotgun"-style dwelling, these may have been the first juke joints.

During the prohibition in the United States it became common to see squalid independent juke joints at highway crossings and railroad stops. These were almost never called "juke joint"; but rather were named such as "Lone Star" or "Colored Cafe". They were often open only on weekends.[5]

Juke joints may represent the first "private space" for blacks.[6] Paul Oliver writes that juke joints were "the last retreat, the final bastion for black people who want to get away from whites, and the pressures of the day."[5] Jooks occurred on plantations, and classic juke joints found, for example, at rural crossroads began to emerge after the Emancipation Proclamation.[7] At the beginning of the twentieth century, the fiddle was the most popular instrument for Southern musicians, white and black alike.[8] The fiddle-based music that was played for slaves at their dances forms the foundation of much of what is now termed "old-timey" or "hillbilly" country music. These dances were often referred to at the time as jigs and reels; Elijah Ward notes that there were "terms routinely used for any dance that struck respectable people as wild or unrestrained, whether Irish or African."[8] The banjo was popular before guitars became widely available in the 1890s.

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