What is the meaning of the riddle Miss Mary Mack?

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The origin of the name Mary Mack is obscure, and various theories have been proposed. According to one theory Mary Mack originally was Merrimack (an early ironclad that would have been black, with silver rivets) suggesting that the first verse refers to the Battle of Hampton Roads during the American Civil War. In America, slave children would sometimes sing the hand-clapping song while they worked. Thanks for using ChaCha! more
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