What Did Music Have To Do With The Underground Railroad? (Best solution)

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.

What role did music play in the Underground Railroad?

Songs were used in everyday life by African slaves. 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.

Who did the music for Underground Railroad?

The very first sonic reference director Barry Jenkins sent to composer and frequent collaborator Nicholas Britell for “The Underground Railroad,” the epic 10-part Amazon series, was a cryptic audio message of a drilling sound.

Did Harriet Tubman use songs?

Fact: Tubman sang two songs while operating her rescue missions. Both are listed in Sarah Bradford’s biography Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman: “Go Down Moses,” and, “Bound For the Promised Land.” Tubman said she changed the tempo of the songs to indicate whether it was safe to come out or not.

Did slaves write songs?

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.

What kind of music did Harriet Tubman listen to?

A band of angels coming after me, Coming for to carry me home. Perhaps one of the most enduring songs of this time period, “ Swing Low, Sweet Chariot ” is said to be Harriet Tubman’s favorite. If a slave heard this song in the South, they knew they had to prepare for escape.

What is the music in Episode 9 of the Underground Railroad?

Episode 9, “Indiana Winter”: “ This Is America” by Childish Gambino. This was the last one to go in.

Where can we watch the Underground Railroad?

The Underground Railroad is available on Amazon Prime Video. It is available in more than 240 countries and territories around the world. Prime video is free with any Amazon Prime membership. The streamer also offers a 30-day free trial, before charging $12.99 per month.

Who made the song Wade in the Water?

“The secret code in ‘Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water’ for the slaves trying to escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad, meant to be aware that one of the methods used by the slave masters to track runaway slaves down was to send their bloodhounds out to track down the slave,” Calvin Earl, an

What does wade in the water mean slavery?

For example, Harriet Tubman used the song “Wade in the Water” to tell escaping slaves to get off the trail and into the water to make sure the dogs slavecatchers used couldn’t sniff out their trail. People walking through water did not leave a scent trail that dogs could follow.

What music did slaves listen to?

Slave music took diverse forms. Although the Negro spirituals are the best known form of slave music, in fact secular music was as common as sacred music. There were field hollers, sung by individuals, work songs, sung by groups of laborers, and satirical songs.

What did slaves sing?

The slaves used “each a part of their bodies once they danced,” from their palms to their feet. Dances like these incorporated religion by singing religious songs such as Go Down Moses, Song Of The Free, and Steal Away (to Jesus) were some of the many religious songs.

Why is music important to black culture?

Music played a central role in the African American civil rights struggles of the 20th century, and objects linked directly to political activism bring to light the roles that music and musicians played in movements for equality and justice.

Songs of the Underground Railroad : Harriet Tubman

African slaves incorporated songs into their daily routines. Singing was a custom brought to America by the earliest slaves from Africa; their songs are frequently referred to as spirituals. It performed a variety of functions, including supplying repeating rhythm for repetitive physical labor, as well as serving as an inspiration and incentive. Singing was also used to communicate their shared beliefs and solidarity with one another, as well as to mark important occasions. Because the majority of slaves were illiterate, songs were employed to help them recall and communicate with one another.

Music coded with instructions on how to escape, also known as signal songs, or where to rendezvous, known as map songs, was played during the performance.

Songs made use of biblical allusions and comparisons to biblical characters, places, and tales, while also drawing parallels between them and their own past of enslavement.

To a slave, however, it meant being ready to go to Canada.

In Wade in the Water

Tubman used the phrase “Wade in the Water” to instruct slaves to enter the water in order to avoid being spotted and make it through. This is an example of a map song, in which the lyrics contain codes that denote the locations of various landmarks. The following are the lyrics to the song “Wade in the Water.” Chorus: Children, wade in the water, wade in the water, wade in the water Wade through the water. God is going to cause turmoil in the sea. What is the identity of those children who are all dressed in red?

  • They must be the ones who followed Moses.
  • Chorus What is the identity of those children who are all clothed in white?
  • It has to be the ones belonging to the Israelites.
  • Chorus What is the identity of those children who are all clothed in blue?
  • They must be the ones who made it to the other side.
  • Chorus

Steal Away

This song conveys the message that the person who is singing it is intending to flee. sneak away, steal away, steal away! is the chorus. Is it possible to steal away to Jesus? Slip away, steal away to your own house! I don’t have much time left in this place! My Lord has summoned me! He screams out to me above the thunder!

It’s like the trumpet is blowing in my spirit! I don’t have much time left in this place! Chorus My Lord has summoned me! He yells my name because of the illumination! It’s like the trumpet is blowing in my spirit! I don’t have much time left in this place! Chorus.

Sweet Chariot

If a slave heard this song, he would realize that he needed to get ready to flee for a band of angels were on their way to rescue him and bring him to freedom. The Underground Railroad (sweet chariot) is on its way south (swing low) to transport slaves to the north or to their eventual liberation (carry me home). According to Sarah Hopkins Bradford’s biography of Harriet Tubman, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, this was one of Tubman’s favorite songs. Swing low, beautiful chariot, as you approach to transport me home.

I looked around Jordan and what did I see coming for me to take me home, I don’t know.

If you arrive before I do, you will be responsible for transporting me home.

I will be arriving in order to transport me home.

Follow the Drinking Gourd

As the days become longer in the spring, this song advises that you should move away. Additionally, it is used to allude to quails, which begin calling to one another around April. The drinking gourd is really a water dipper, which is a code name for the Big Dipper, which is a constellation that points to the Pole Star in the direction of the north. Because moss develops on the north side of dead trees, if the Big Dipper is not visible, dead trees will steer them in the right direction. I When the sun returns and the first quail calls, it’s time to get out of bed.

  1. Because the elderly guy is standing by, ready to transport you to freedom.
  2. The riverside serves as a highly effective road.
  3. Follow the Drinking Gourd with your left foot, peg foot, and traveling on.
  4. Follow the path of the Drinking Gourd.
  5. Follow the path of the Drinking Gourd.
  6. Follow the path of the Drinking Gourd.
  7. If you go the path of the drinking gourd.

This song gives them the assurance that it is safe to approach her.

I salute you, ye joyful spirits, I salute you.

A thousand angels surround Him, constantly ready to fulfill his commands; they hover over you at all times, until you reach the celestial realm.

He whose thunders tremble creation, He who commands the planets to move, He who rides atop the tempest, And whose scepter sways the entire universe is the God of Thunder.

Sarah Hopkins Bradford’s book Harriet Tubman, the Moses of her People, is the source for this information.

All the way down into Egypt’s territory, Please tell old Pharaoh that my people must be let to leave.

I heard that Pharaoh would cross the river; let my people go; and don’t get lost in the desert; let my people go. Chorus He sits in the Heavens and answers prayer, so let my people leave! You may obstruct me here, but you cannot obstruct me up there, so let my people go! Chorus

Songs of the African American Civil Rights Movement

Coded music, underground railroad, Underground Railroad codes, Underground Railroad codes Underground Railroad is a subcategory of the category Underground Railroad.

See also:  How Many Slaves Used The Underground Railroad To Escape? (Correct answer)

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Songs of the Underground Railroad

Music served as the Underground Railroad’s coded communication system. The Underground Railroad, as a means of achieving freedom, was laden with risk. What was the best technique for escaping slaves to figure out which way to go? How could individuals communicate across hundreds of kilometers when the consequences of coming out of hiding may be fatal were unknown. A large part of the solution may be found in music. African slaves incorporated songs into their daily routines. Tradition introduced from Africa by the first slaves, singing was used to encourage and motivate people, as well as communicate their ideals and solidarity with one another, and was performed at festivals and other events.

  • While slaves were escaping to freedom in the Northern United States and Canada during the time of the Underground Railroad, spirituals were coded with concealed instructions concerning maps, navigational methods, and the appropriate time to leave.
  • Harriet Tubman, affectionately referred to as “Moses,” was well-known for using song to connect with visitors.
  • Many others, on the other hand, consider them to be part of the rich oral legacy of African American folk songs that continues to influence contemporary American music.
  • It is derived from the Bible that one should travel “down” to Egypt; the Old Testament acknowledges the Nile Valley as being lower than Jerusalem and the Promised Land; as a result, one should go “down” to Egypt, whereas one should go “up” away from Egypt.
  • Listen to the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers sing “Go Down Moses” (Go Down Moses).
  • There is a reference to the beginning of spring, which was the finest time to set off on the lengthy trek to the North.
  • Travelers had a guide in the night sky that led them in the direction of freedom by following the path of the Big Dipper to the north star.

On the surface, the phrase “steal away to Jesus” meant to die and go to paradise, but it may also refer to a song in which the person who is singing it is intending to flee.

The song “Steal Away” represented the possibility of a better life for slaves, whether in freedom or in paradise.

If they were concerned that they were being followed, they might take cover in the water, which would keep bloodhounds off their trail.

Hear the Golden Gate Quartet perform “Wade in the Water” on their YouTube channel.

If a slave in the South heard this song, he or she would know it was time to start preparing for their escape.

Listen to Marion Williams perform “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” on the piano. Investigate the Sacred Music and Musicians of the African Diaspora. Sheet Music Collections are a type of collection of sheet music that is used to create music.

The Underground Railroad on Amazon Prime: the music behind the new Colson Whitehead novel adaptation

Colson Whitehead’s novelThe Underground Railroad, which was published in 2016, was hailed with widespread praise, and it has now been adapted into a limited ten-episode television series on Amazon Prime.

Who wrote the soundtrack toThe Underground Railroad?

It was American composer Nicholas Britell who composed the orchestral score for The Underground Railroad. Britell has previously worked with director Barry Jenkins on two of his previous films, Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, both of which received Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score. This is the first time the two of them have collaborated on a television production of any kind. The New York Times’ Jamie Fisher said in a recent article on Britell’s work on The Underground Railroad that it is “less of a single score than it is of ten crossing, fully realized musical universes.” As well as the renowned music to Succession, Britell was also involved with the film.

His other upcoming projects include composing the music for the live-action filmCruella, which is based on the Disney villain from101 Dalmations and is scheduled to be released later this year.

1, Britell has combined beautiful orchestral background music with spikier string playing that is more reflective of music that would have been heard at the time by amateur musicians.

Who is Nicholas Britell?

The American composer entered the sector after earning a degree in psychology from Harvard and beginning his professional career at a hedge fund. He has classical training, which has enabled him to compose for large-scale orchestras, such as the 90-piece group that provided the music for the filmVice, among other things. However, he has drawn inspiration for his compositions from other genres such as hip-hop, and he has even performed as a keyboardist in a hip-hop band. Since his music was included in Steve McQueen’s Academy Award-winning film12 Years a Slave in 2013, the films he has composed have fared exceptionally well.

He has also worked as a film producer, most notably on the psychological thriller Whiplash, which showed an ambitious jazz drummer and gained great critical praise at the time of its release.

Where can you stream the soundtrack forThe Underground Railroadonline?

Music from the film The Underground Railroad is currently available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer.

Can you buy the soundtrack forThe Underground Railroad?

On Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer, you can listen to the music to The Underground Railroad right now!

What book isThe Underground Railroadbased on?

The novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2017 and was nominated for the Booker Prize in the same year, serves as the basis for Amazon Prime’s new series. In this historical novel, Cora and Caesar are two slaves in nineteenth-century America who attempt to flee from their Georgia plantation using the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses established to aid enslaved African Americans in their journey to Canada and the free states of the United States.

The novel is a work of historical fiction and is set in the United States. Whitehead was subsequently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2020 for his work The Nickel Boys, which was published the year before.

  • You can purchase The Underground Railroad for Kindle from Amazon
  • You can purchase The Underground Railroad from Hive
  • You can purchase The Underground Railroad from Wordery
  • You can purchase The Underground Railroad from Waterstones
  • And you can purchase The Underground Railroad from Blackwell’s.

Where can you watchThe Underground Railroadonline?

The Underground Railroad is currently available for viewing on Amazon Prime. Sign up for Amazon Prime now for £7.99 per month with a 30-day free trial and save money on shipping. The series will be available in more than 240 countries across the world when it debuts.

Watch the trailer forThe Underground Railroad

A new season of The Underground Railroad is available to view on Amazon Prime right now. Amazon Prime is now available for £7.99 per month with a 30-day free trial. To get started, click here. In total, more than 240 nations will be able to access the series.


The Underground Railroad is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime is available for £7.99 a month with a 30-day free trial right now. The series will be accessible in more than 240 countries throughout the globe.

Additional Reading

“The Power of a Song in a Strange Land,” Donna M. Cox’s article. The Conversation will take place on September 3, 2020.

Underground Railroad: A Conductor And Passengers Documented In Music

However, while Harriet Tubman is the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad, a new album highlights the contributions of an even more important figure: William Still, who was responsible for assisting nearly 800 enslaved African Americans to escape to freedom in the years before the Civil War. That Still was more generally acknowledged for his work as an abolitionist, historian, and conductor for the Underground Railroad is long overdue; he deserves to be. It was Still’s 1872 bookThe Underground Railroad that inspired the new filmHarriet, in which he is portrayed by Leslie Odom Jr., and he is also the key protagonist in Sanctuary Road, a new oratorio by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec that is based on Still’s novel.

  1. While still in his twenties, Still, who was born free in New Jersey in 1821, relocated to Philadelphia, where he worked for an abolitionist organization.
  2. ‘Preserve every tale, every truth, and every incident,’ sings bass-baritone Dashon Burton in the character of Still, his velvety authority shining through.
  3. The stories he collected were both alarming and distressing to listen to.
  4. Creature, who had a light skin tone, pretended to be an elderly white slave owner while traveling to Philadelphia with an enslaved valet who was actually Craft’s fiancé, who was also disguised as a white man.
  5. Sanctuary Road is not without its share of wry comedy, as you will see below.
  6. The people that sent him were apparently less intelligent than Brown, for he ended up spending much of his perilous voyage upside down.
  7. Merriweather at the conclusion of his devoted performance, which is tinged with a tinge of amusement.
  8. Three frantic chase sequences, starring tenor Joshua Blue and showing the enslaved Wesley Harris’ feverishly dashing through woodlands and avoiding highways, are interspersed between the lengthier stories by Moravec and Campbell between the longer stories.
  9. The singers, dressed as enraged slave owners, scream out, promising incentives to those who flee.
  10. Its sweeping romanticism, a la Samuel Barber, sounds very American, and it blends well with the text written by Mark Campbell, which was based on Still’s novel.
  11. Americans still have a long way to go before they can comprehend the Underground Railroad in its entirety.

However, via a piece such as Sanctuary Road, we may learn about William Still – a significant character in our nation’s history — and the hundreds of people he helped to achieve freedom. NPR has copyright protection until 2021. More information may be found at

Pathways to Freedom

Music Because so many slaves were aware of the hidden meanings of these songs, they could be utilized to convey a variety of different things. The song “Wade in the Water,” for example, was written by Harriet Tubman in order to advise runaway slaves that they needed to go off the route and into water in order to avoid being tracked down by the dogs slavecatchers used to track them down. The scent trail left by people going through water was not one that dogs could follow. Take a look at the lyrics of “Wade in the Water.” Children, wade in the water, wade in the water, goes the chorus.

  • God is going to cause turmoil in the sea.
  • God is going to cause turmoil in the sea.
  • God is going to cause turmoil in the sea.
  • Who are those youngsters who are all clothed in white, and where did they come from?
  • It has to be the ones belonging to the Israelites.
  • Chorus.
  • God is going to cause turmoil in the sea.
See also:  Who Was Best Known For The Role Of The Leader Of The Underground Railroad? (Correct answer)

God is going to cause turmoil in the sea.

The audio element cannot be played because your browser does not support it.

Tubman also utilized slave songs to convey other messages to his followers.

She’d order them to go into hiding and wait for her to signal them.

Whenever there was a threat, such as the presence of slavecatchers in the vicinity, she would switch to another song.

If you didn’t know about the signal, you could suppose that Tubman was singing only to pass the time of day, which would be incorrect.

According to legend, the Virginia slave Nat Turner planned a slave uprising against slave masters, and he used the song “Steal Away” as a rallying cry to gather people to discuss their plans.

Take it away and give it to Jesus!

I don’t have much time left in this place!

He screams out to me above the thunder!

I don’t have much time left in this place!

My Lord, he has summoned me!

It is sounded by the trumpet in my spirit!


Listen to “Steal Away” on Spotify » Here’s a song that was a favorite of Harriet Tubman’s while she was growing up.

What do you think other people would have thought if they had heard it?

Swing low, dear chariot, for I’m on my way to be carried home.

Coming to pick me up and take me home, A swarm of angels is chasing behind me, preparing to take me back to heaven.

Inform everyone of my pals that I will be attending as well. I will be arriving in order to transport me home. The audio element cannot be played because your browser does not support it. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot » is a song to listen to.

For Barry Jenkins and Nicholas Britell, ‘The Underground Railroad’ Music Feels Like ‘Scoring Six Shows’

Inspiration may come from the most unexpected sources. The power drill from a neighboring construction site was the source of Barry Jenkins’s 116-day shoot for his upcoming Amazon series “The Underground Railroad” at the commencement of the filming. Jenkins was so taken by the noise that he rapidly recorded it and sent it to Nicholas Britell, the series’ composer, as soon as he could. While Jenkins and Britell were participating in an online SXSW panel on Tuesday, Jenkins said, “They began up their drill, and this is like 300 yards away, but I could feel the vibration through the soil and it seemed like a beat.” Britell stated that he found it to be really beneficial: “I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is really cool.'” We’re doing this because I took that drilling and immediately began playing with the notion of descending to the earth and moving lower.” In Jenkins’ adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s 2017 novel, “The Underground Railroad,” a fictional past in which the titular network that assisted slaves in fleeing the South was really a genuine railroad is imagined to have been.

  • ‘Moonlight’ is Jenkins and Britell’s latest collaboration, and it will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on May 14.
  • “I give myself a pat on the back because I believe I made the decision to collaborate with Nick despite having never heard any of his music before.
  • Britell, who earned an Emmy for creating the theme for the television show “Succession,” feels that working with Jenkins provides ideal opportunity for aural exploration.
  • On ‘Underground Railroad,’ there were a number of instances in which we went one step farther than the norm.
  • For example, a piano tune titled “Floating” that plays in a teaser introducing the character Cora (Thuso Mbedu) is inverted in another scene of the program later in the season.
  • Britell explained that this requires the creation of distinct “musical universes” depending on her diverse physical and emotional states.
  • “Instead of us winning one game, it seemed like we were winning six games at the same time.

“We needed six radically different soundscapes,” says the producer. The trailer for “The Underground Railroad” may be seen in the video player below. Sign up here: Keep up with the most recent breaking film and television news! Subscribe to our email newsletters by filling out this form.

The Underground Railroad & Songs of Freedom

Photographs courtesy of Peter Newark/American Pictures/Bridgeman Images Written by Tonte Spiff The Underground Railroadwas an interwoven web of persons, made up of both African Americans and White people, who provided sanctuary and assistance to slaves who managed to flee from plantations in the southern United States during the Civil War. Although the exact dates of the Underground Railroad’s operation are unknown, it was in operation from the late 18th century until the time of the American Civil War, at which point the efforts of individuals engaged continued to undermine the laws of the Confederacy in a less covert way.

  • This was the first recorded reference of the Underground Railroad, which dates back to 1831.
  • Few years later in 1839, a slave called Jim managed to elude arrest, only to be recaptured and tortured before being brought to the plantation.
  • In 1835, Vigilance Committees were established in New York and Philadelphia to safeguard runaway slaves from bounty hunters.
  • By the mid-1940s, the phrase “Underground Railroad” had become part of the common lexicon in the United States.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made capturing escaped slaves an extremely profitable business in the deep Confederate South, and as a result, there were fewer escape routes, hiding places, and allies available, leaving fugitive slaves to act on their own until they reached certain points further north in the United States.

  1. Many runaway slaves fled to Canada as a result of these actions, because Northern governments were obligated to repatriate them back to their countries of origin if they were arrested, as well as to punish anybody who assisted them.
  2. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was intended to tighten rules that had been previously established but were not being properly implemented, according to the Confederate states of the South.
  3. Even the Union states of the North were still considered a serious risk for runaway slaves at this period, according to historians.
  4. There were several widely-used routes that were a component of the Underground Railroad that ran west through Ohio and into Indiana and Iowa, as well as to the Midwest.
  5. Songs of Freedom are sung in a variety of languages.
  6. These songs are referred to be “Songs of Freedom” because of the important role they played during the American Revolution.
  7. YouTube |

“There can be no doubt that the natural operation of mask and symbol, the prevalence of improvised performance techniques, and the existence of a complex African-derived theological systems worked together to create conditions that supported the use of spirituals, both as a cover for and an expression of fervently religious commitments and convictions, in the ongoing struggle for freedom,” writes author Arthur C.


YouTube |

Meanwhile, the archetypally spiritual character of many of the songs made them relevant to the human experience of tyranny, wherever and whenever it may manifest itself in the world.” Slave emancipation was aided and abetted by the Songs of Freedom, a component of the Underground Railroad that played a significant role in guiding and assisting escaped slaves on their journey to freedom.

In addition to “Wade in the Water,” other songs to listen to include “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” and “Song of the Free.”

Music and the Underground Railroad

Dyan Branstetter contributed to this article. What role did music play in the Underground Railroad’s history? What methods did slaves use to communicate forbidden emotions and desires like as wrath, resentment, or a wish for liberty? This brief course, which was presented in partnership with the music instructor at my school, focused on answering the most important questions. Our objective was to attempt to include the arts into the ordinary classroom setting, and we came up with the idea for the Underground Railroad after reading a guided reading book about the subject.

Historically significant, the Underground Railroad is a fascinating element of our past, and who would have expected that music played such a significant role in it?


  1. By having a fast review conversation, you can activate past knowledge about the Underground Railroad. Provide a brief introduction to the words of the song Harriet Tubman by Walter Robinson (Lyrics:)
  2. Teach the song “Harriet Tubman” to your students. Organize for pupils to perform the song.
See also:  When Did The Underground Railroad Start To Go Erosion Down? (Correct answer)

Session 2: (During music class)

  1. Become familiar with the lyrics and melody to four spirituals. Each spiritual must be performed. Pay attention to a genuine example of each spiritual practice.

Session 3: (During Language Arts class)

You’ll be able to learn the words and melody to four spirituals. Every religious rite must be carried out. Each spiritual practice should be demonstrated authentically.

  • Agent
  • Conductor
  • Station
  • Station master
  • Agent
  • Freedom train
  • Gospel train
  1. Review each spiritual by listening to it again while reading the lyrics
  2. Ask students to brainstorm to determine what the terms have in common before reading them aloud. The Underground Railroad has nothing to do with railroads, as far as I know. Explain that many of the terms used by slaves in their communication were codes, and that they were utilized in order for the slave owners to not comprehend their strategy for escaping. Slaves were not permitted to speak, but they were permitted to sing, and as a result, they communicated a great deal via music. Dividing the kids into four groups will help. Hand out one recording sheet and the words to one of the spirituals to each of the groups. During group discussions, participants should consider the lyrics and determine which phrases may be coded and what hidden message the music may contain. Collect the lyrics and recording sheets so that they may be discussed at the next session.

Session 4: (During Language Arts class)

  1. Students should return to the same group they were in during the last session. Distribution of lyrics and recording sheets should be repeated. Have each group go over everything they spoke about at the last session again. Each group should be asked to disclose the code words or secret messages they discovered. The audio of the spiritual should be played for the class. Discuss the music and determine whether or not it was effective in conveying the message. Is there a difference between listening and not listening? This technique should be repeated for the remaining three groups.

Students can produce coded messages and offer an interpretation as an extension of their learning. Aside from that, students might look at original materials that were linked to songs about slavery. An extra unit plan is available here, which was the source of our important question and lesson outline:.


  • Walter Robinson () composed the lyrics and recorded the song “Harriet Tubman.” 1 packet of spiritual lyrics per student OR 1 recording sheet per group for the coded message activity

Here is a link to a downloadable lesson plan as well as student recording sheets:

Music and The Underground Railroad

Dyan is a fifth grade teacher at a public school district in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with more than 16 years of experience in the classroom. She holds a Master’s degree in Science Education and has a strong interest in dance and music, and she seeks to include the arts into the classroom whenever feasible. Dr. Dyan has a history in teaching advanced learners, and she is passionate about utilizing project-based learning to assist her students in developing 21st century learning skills and mastering the Pennsylvania State Core Standards.

Take the Free Quiz to find out for yourself!

Singing in Slavery: Songs of Survival, Songs of Freedom

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: PBS has worked with historians and academics to bring fans the Mercy Street Revealed blog. Click here to read more. Originally from New York City, Kenyatta D. Berry is an experienced genealogist and lawyer with more than 15 years of expertise conducting genealogical research and writing. During law school, she spent time at the State Library of Michigan in Lansing, where she began her genealogy research. Berry, a native of Detroit, received his education at Bates Academy, Cass Technical High School, Michigan State University, and the Thomas M.

  • She also co-hosts the PBS program Genealogy Roadshow.
  • After escaping slavery, Charlotte Jenkins, a former slave who has become an activist, arrives in Alexandria to assist the city’s burgeoning population of “contrabands” with the transition from slavery to freedom.
  • As a result of her collaboration with Samuel Diggs and Mary Phinney, Charlotte is able to create a small pox quarantine tent for ill contraband.
  • It all started with the abducted and transported over the Atlantic during the Middle Passage, which was a period of slavery in Africa.
  • They were able to track out family, countrymen, and ladies by singing songs about them.
  • “They regularly sing, the men and women responding to one another, but they cannot describe what the theme of their songs is.”1 Despite the fact that they were unable to comprehend what the Africans were saying, the crew was able to detect the melancholy tone of their songs.
  • Throughout the course of slavery, songs were passed down from generation to generation.

In the Atlantic Monthly, Col.

Higginson of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment acknowledged the phrase “Negro Spiritual,” which he coined (June 1867).

3 Former slaves were able to negotiate the gray area between slavery and freedom through the use of song at contraband camps.

The healing balm of Gilead may restore health to those who have been wounded; it can restore health to those who have been sinfully afflicted.

Harriet Tubman is seated, her hands resting on the back of a chair.

Harriet Tubman was known as the “Moses of her people” and was the conductor of the Underground Railroad.

Tubman, on the other hand, was able to establish a network of stations, whose operators assisted in guiding runaway slaves northward to freedom.

While it has not been proved, it is thought that Harriett Tubman used this traditional Negro Spiritual to warn slaves to jump into the water in order to disguise their smell from the slavecatching dogs on their track during the Underground Railroad.

Children, wade in the water, wade in the water, they say. God is going to cause difficulties in the water if you don’t wade in it— Kenyatta D. Berry

  • The following works are recommended: Marcus Rediker, “The Slave Ship: A Human History” (New York: Penquin, 2007), 282
  • Sowande M. Mustakeem, “Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Illness in the Middle Passage” (Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2016), 120
  • Wesley, Charles H., and Patricia W. Romero, “Negro Americans in the Civil War: From Slavery to Publishers Co. of New York published this book in 1967.

The following works are recommended: Marcus Rediker, “The Slave Ship: A Human History” (New York: Penquin, 2007), 282; Sowande M. Mustakeem, “Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Illness in the Middle Passage” (Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2016), 120; Wesley, Charles H., and Patricia W. Romero, “Negro Americans in the Civil War; from slavery to citizenship.” Publishers Company, New York, 1967;

“Sing to Freedom: Music & Stories of The Underground Railroad” Feb. 3

Marcus Rediker, “The Slave Ship: A Human History” (New York: Penquin, 2007), 282; Sowande M. Mustakeem, “Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Illness in the Middle Passage” (Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2016), 120; Wesley, Charles H., and Patricia W. Romero, “Negro Americans in the Civil War; from slavery to citizenship.” Publishers Co., New York, 1967;

Composer Nicholas Britell on Creating the Haunting Score of ‘The Underground Railroad’

When directorBarry Jenkins delivered a mysterious audio message of a drilling sound to composer and regular collaboratorNicholas Britell for ” The Underground Railroad,” the epic 10-part Amazon series, it was the first auditory reference he had received. Britell received another text from Jenkins a few hours later, this time confirming that the previous sample had been received, and it was at this point that the composer realized what he had to do. Then he went out and started experimenting on himself, he explains.

“The Underground Railroad,” which was based on Colton Whitehead’s novel, marked the third movie that the director and composer worked with, following “Moonlight” and “If Beale Street Could Talk.” During Cora’s (Thuso Mbedu) desperate attempt to gain freedom in the antebellum South before to the Civil War, the series follows her journey via the series’ narrative.

In this alternate history in which the railroad exists, she discovers that it is full of engineers and conductors, as well as a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath Southern soil that will aid her in her journey north and to freedom from the plantation.

In Britell’s opinion, the most precise aspect that corresponded to the concept of going underground was the descending pattern of the E flat, D flat, and C, as well as the idea of drilling and excavating, as explained above.

He took the experiment to the next level by playing a “shaking tremolo” on the strings, which Jenkins adored.

According to the composer, there is a subtle aspect to some of the melodies associated to the train that may be described as a “pitch ringing” in the composition.

The first eight bars of “Bessie” were derived from a sequence originally titled “Floating.” The theme, which was composed using piano, harp, and string instruments, is a rhythmic one that takes on many shapes over the course of the series.

“The first version of it may be heard at the conclusion of episode one, and it progresses in the following episodes.” Britell argues that the score’s “very purposeful attempt to depict these multiple universes” is the key to understanding the piece.

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