- Songs of the Underground Railroad
- Singing in Slavery: Songs of Survival, Songs of Freedom
- The Best Songs About Slavery
- African American Spirituals
Songs of the Underground Railroad
Songs of the Underground Railroad were spiritual and work songs used during the early-to-mid As it was illegal in most slave states to teach slaves to read or write, songs were used to communicate leading them to the northern states, Canada, and freedom: The song ostensibly encodes escape instructions and a map.and with with
Africans forcibly transported to the Americas, removed from their homes, families, and cultures utilized various forms of passive and active resistance. These men, women, and children were forced to take new names and create new families. They were bred, bought, and sold, and active resistance was immediately and harshly punished. Many slave-owners allowed their slaves only work songs and spirituals. These types of songs led owners to believe that their slaves were accepting their place in society, and their conversion to a new Christian faith. Music can make work seem easier and the work day go by faster, and song lyrics often included coded messages. These songs could fuel emotions toward a common cause, provide directions along the Underground Railroad, or call slaves to open rebellion.
Kenyatta D. Berry is genealogist and lawyer with more than 15 years of experience in genealogical research and writing. She began her genealogical journey while in law school and studying at the State Library of Michigan in Lansing. Cooley Law School. In this blog post, Berry examines how song was used by slaves to both communicate and express feeling in the moment, as well as and pass history down through generations. Upon arrival she quickly recognizes a small pox epidemic at one of the contraband camps.
In song, lyrics about the Exodus were a metaphor for freedom from slavery. Songs like "Steal Away to Jesus ", or "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" raised unexpectedly in a dusty field, or sung softly in the dark of night, signaled that the coast was clear and the time to escape had come. The River Jordan became the Ohio River, or the Mississippi, or another body of water that had to be crossed on the journey to freedom. Leaving dry land and taking to the water was a common strategy to throw pursuing bloodhounds off one's trail. The title itself was an Africanized reference to the Big Dipper, which pointed the way to the North Star and freedom. African American Spirituals.
Songs were used in everyday life by African slaves. Singing was tradition brought from Africa by the first slaves; sometimes their songs are called spirituals. Singing served many purposes such as providing repetitive rhythm for repetitive manual work, inspiration and motivation. Singing was also use to express their values and solidarity with each other and during celebrations. Songs were used as tools to remember and communicate since the majority of slaves could not read. Harriet Tubman and other slaves used songs as a strategy to communicate with slaves in their struggle for freedom.
Songs of the Underground Railroad were spiritual and work songs used during the early-to-mid 19th century in the United States to encourage and convey coded information to escaping slaves as they moved along the various Underground Railroad routes. As it was illegal in most slave states to teach slaves to read or write, songs were used to communicate messages and directions about when, where, and how to escape, and warned of dangers and obstacles along the route. The pointer stars of the Big Dipper align with the North Star. In this song the repeated line "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd" is thus often interpreted as instructions to escaping slaves to travel north by following the North Star , leading them to the northern states, Canada, and freedom: The song ostensibly encodes escape instructions and a map from Mobile, Alabama up the Tombigbee River, over the divide to the Tennessee River, then downriver to where the Tennessee and Ohio rivers meet in Paducah, Kentucky. Another song with a reportedly secret meaning is "Now Let Me Fly"  which references the biblical story of Ezekiel's Wheels. This song might have boosted the morale and spirit of the slaves, giving them hope that there was a place waiting that was better than where they were.
Singing in Slavery: Songs of Survival, Songs of Freedom
Common, John Legend - Glory
The Best Songs About Slavery
12 years a slave - choir song - ''roll jordan roll'' 2013
African American Spirituals