“My name it is Ben Davis and I’m in a prison cell In Terre Haute, Indiana, that’s where I’m forced to dwell In a segregated section of the penitentiary And while I’m locked in solitary, I write my life story.
“I grew up in Jim Crow, Georgia and became a people’s lawyer I defended Angelo Herndon when he organized workers They wished to execute him for uniting Black and white To march to the county courthouse and demand `jobs or relief.’
“For defending the free speech rights of a 19-year-old communist They threatened me with `contempt of court’ and to lynch me by the neck Inspired by Angelo’s testimony, his Party I did join And four years after his rigged trial, the verdict was overturned.
“I worked to build the Party and moved up to Harlem I rented an apartment and owned no stocks and bonds I found myself elected in 1943 To serve the working people in the Council of New York City.
“I fought discrimination by Metropolitan Life And demanded that the major leagues cease to be lily-white I fought against the fare increase and protected rent control And denounced police brutality and applied the housing code.
“They could not defeat me at the polls in two elections So they spent a lot of money to change the regulations Then in July of 1948, while writing in my home, Six FBI agents did appear and dragged me from Harlem.
“Although I was elected by the people of New York They threw me in a prison and charged me in their court An unconstitutional Smith Act, they used to imprison me And expelled me from the Council in the name of `democracy.’
“Locked inside this prison by Truman, the `Democrat', I received a 5-year sentence, just because I’m a communist Along with other comrades, I’m jailed for my beliefs And this book I write in prison, they vow they won’t release.
“Yes, my name it is Ben Davis and I’m in a prison cell In Terre Haute, Indiana, that’s where I’m forced to dwell In a segregated section of the penitentiary And while I’m locked in solitary, I write my life story.”
To listen to this song, you can go to following music site link:
The Ben Davis biographical protest folk song lyrics were written a few years ago, after I read the book Communist Councilman From Harlem: Autobiographical Notes Written in a FederalPenitentiary by Benjamin Davis, and are sung to the traditional Scottish folk song tune of “Come, All Ye Tramps and Hawkers”. Prior to Ben Davis’s release from prison the manuscript of his autobiography was seized by U.S. prison authorities and kept by the Bureau of Prisons until after Ben Davis’s death in 1964—before the autobiographical manuscript was finally allowed by U.S. government officials to be published in 1969 by International Publishers.
To listen to some of the other protest folk songs that I’ve written since the late 1960s, you can check out the “Columbia Songs for a Democratic Society” music site at the following link: