Generations of black Africans transplanted from Africa to the United States have enjoyed playing Little Johnny Brown as a courtship dance, vehicle for learning, and source of lively fun. The dance, and the story of Little Johnny Brown, were popular among African Americans living on the islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia.
Here’s the story:
Though small in stature, Little Johnny Brown was known for his strength and for his ability to pick a lot of cotton quickly. He could lift heavy bags onto the scale, showing everyone how much he had picked. But sometimes his boss would say his bag weighed less than what Johnny knew it weighed. This made Johnny furious. He decided that if his boss was going to cheat him, he would cheat the boss by putting bricks, stones, dead animals, and debris into the bag with the cotton. When his mother found out what Johnny was doing, she told him to lay his blanket down so she could see the contents of his bag. She told Johnny that while the man might cheat Johnny out of his money, no one could cheat Johnny out of his soul, meaning Johnny should maintain his honesty and be a better man than his boss.