Square dancing was a racist hoax funded by Henry Ford to get white people to stop dancing to black music

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/08/dr-pappy-shaw.html


I live in SW Ontario, Canada and went to a rural highschool. Every fall, for two weeks in gym class all five grades (I was the last cohort to have 9 through 13) would get together to square dance every single day for an hour.

In its defense it taught me - a very shy boy - how to dance with girls that were older than me with confidence. All I had to do was listen to the instructions being shouted by the caller. It did not however, keep me from listening to the popular rap music of the '90s.


He certainly worked like mad to popularize it, and his motives were quite bigoted, but nonetheless, NO, Henry freaking Ford did not invent square dancing, unless he was born in 16th-century England. He was pretty clever, but I’m reasonably sure time travel — beyond the 1:1 form we all know — wasn’t in his purview:

“Tin foil hat”, indeed.


That’s funny. It looks like every Medieval dance I’ve ever seen reenacted.


Racist hoax? Please. Everyone knows that dancing to the Negro music inevitably leads to smoking reefer and shooting junk (which is exactly why the Jews who want to destroy this Great God-fearing nation produced so many of their records).


Dear god, that was still going on in the 90s…? This was a thing in my grade school in Southern Ontario in the 80s (79-84 or so), I don’t recall it carrying over to high school. I think mine was the first year or so with no 13, the march of OAC credits had begun. :smiley:


The secret is that it’s socialization, combined with light exercise. ANY dance (that most people are capable of, mind you) would do just about as well, although the historical element is mildly useful.


No kidding, talk about some lazy blogging. The original sources in the Twitter feed don’t remotely say what Cory says they do (just that Henry Ford promoted square dancing for racist reasons).


We had that at my Saskatchewan high school in the 90s. I rather enjoyed it - it was fairly sociable, it was the only unit where boys and girls had gym class together, and we got to see the football and wrestling coach demo dance steps with a decidedly combat-ready physicality to the “face your partner”.


I had a similar experience at my grade school, but they also taught dancing to other music, including the popular rap music of the 90’s. I have several distinct memories of hearing “Tootsee Roll” by the 69 Boyz in my elementary school gym class (needless to say, it wasn’t exactly an appropriate venue for that song).


I was curious about this whole “Tootsee Roll” matter, so I asked a friend who went to school in the same district, and she also remembers this happening. That validation led me to some googling, and I found the 1998 book “Student-Centered Physical Education” which lists steps to teach kids how to dance to “Tootsee Roll” as a line dance. So Henry Ford’s master plan failed, in the end: even “black music“ can danced to in the whitest way possible. The book also suggests teaching kids the Macarena. Now that’s top-notch physical education!


we did it every year in my elementary school gym class (1980s) in Wisconsin (despite us having the much cooler polka as our official state dance).

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Well, yes, at least past the 15-1600s ^^’.

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The rivalry between actual Old Time fans and this nonsense is the cherry on top.


We had to do it from elementary through high school (early 90s).

I will never forget the record we had to dance to. One of the lyrics, which was supposed to instruct the male to duck under their female partner’s arm, was “Duck for the oyster, duck… now dive for the clam!”


cough, GACK!

How do people know I’m drinking coffee, dammit?! Luckily, I invested in a water-resistant keyboard, so the worst that happens is some stickiness, until the next time I pull all the keycaps for cleaning ^^’.


Cory’s post doesn’t even stand up to a mild googling. But now he’s shared it on his very popular blog as if it were true, and so a whole lot of people will think it is. Jeez.


I picked up an album of the winners of some square-dance calling contest, and it was hypnotizing. The dance may be an invented hoax with a dirty secret, and I have no interest in hokey dancing, but I still get a kick out of listening to a good square dance caller, who is basically like an old-fashioned auctioneer set to a beat.


He wouldn’t need to time travel, just be immortal. Or very long-lived. I can believe Henry Ford was a vampire, or maybe one of those dudes from Highlander.


To be completely frank, this is the kind of idiocy that I expect of Salon, not BB ^^’ (full disclosure: I like BOTH websites, anyway)…


…You know, I think I read a {short story, novella, book, ?} along those very lines once. I can’t be sure, however; curse you, THC! shakes fist lazily =s