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.
What was the purpose of the songs on the Underground Railroad?
- Songs of the Underground Railroad. 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.
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.
What was the purpose of the spirituals?
As Africanized Christianity took hold of the slave population, spirituals served as a way to express the community’s new faith, as well as its sorrows and hopes.
What was the significance of the song Follow the Drinking Gourd?
The American folksong Follow the Drinking Gourd was first published in 1928. The Drinking Gourd song was supposedly used by an Underground Railroad operative to encode escape instructions and a map. These directions then enabled fleeing slaves to make their way north from Mobile, Alabama to the Ohio River and freedom.
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.
What is the connection between songs and the Underground Railroad?
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.
How did slaves use music?
Initially, slaves used song and music to boost the overall happiness of the people they worked with. During times of difficult labor, slaves would break out in a song to pass the time, and lift their spirits. Slaves would often sing songs that praised the lord, or asked the lord for help and guidance.
What is the purpose of spiritual music?
Spirituals are a genre of American folk music that articulate the suffering, longing, and religious passion of African Americans during slavery and its aftermath.
What role did music and spirituals play in the lives of slaves?
With time, field songs began to contain messages, enabling slaves to pass information from row to row, or even from one plantation to another. Coded spirituals were used not only as a way to pass covert messages undetected by the slave owners, but also facilitated the escape of slaves along the Underground Railroad.
What is the meaning of spiritual songs?
Spiritual songs may be described as the songs which are spontaneous and are inspired by the Holy Spirit itself. They are also referred to as a type of Psalm. The Psalms are either songs or hymns; sometimes musical directions are also given with the hymns or songs.
What is the meaning of Wade in the Water?
to walk in water, when partially immersed: He wasn’t swimming, he was wading. to play in water: The children were wading in the pool most of the afternoon. to walk through water, snow, sand, or any other substance that impedes free motion or offers resistance to movement: to wade through the mud.
What is the meaning of the song Go Down Moses?
“Go Down, Moses” is also said to have been sung by abolitionists to signal escape or rebellion. The lyrics use biblical imagery expressing the desire for a release from bondage. The song is marked by its strong tone of determination in the struggle for freedom.
What is the form of follow the drinking gourd?
What type of form is the song? This is a slave song. It told slaves how to flee from the South to the North for freedom. The escape route is sung in code so that slave owners would not know what was going on.
How did Harriet Beecher Stowe help the abolition movement?
In 1852, author and social activist Harriet Beecher Stowe popularized the anti-slavery movement with her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe’s novel became a turning point for the abolitionist movement; she brought clarity to the harsh reality of slavery in an artistic way that inspired many to join anti-slavery movements.
Who Wrote the Songs of the 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.
When did Harriet Tubman start freeing slaves?
Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom in the North in 1849 and then risked her life to lead other enslaved people to freedom. Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom in the North in 1849 and then risked her life to lead other enslaved people to freedom.
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.
Hidden Messages in Spirituals
1- 2 class sessions per week
“Freedom’s Land” is a phrase that means “Freedom’s Land.”
NYS Core Curriculum – Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects, 6 – 12
Reading Craftsmanship and Design (meaning of words) Writing Types of Tests and Their Purposes (organize ideas, develop topic with facts) Writing is created and distributed in two ways (develop, organize appropriate to task) Knowledge is created and communicated via study (short research project, using term effectively)
I.Culture and the Diversity of Cultural Beliefs II.The Concepts of Time, Continuity, and Change People, Places, and Environments (Part III) Individual Development and Self-Discovery IV. Individuals, groups, and organizations (V.Institutional entities) Science, Technology, and Society (Chapter VIII)
Students will be able to:understand the idea of spirituals as well as its historical context Spirituals should be read and listened to. learn about the significance of the hidden meanings included within the lyrics of spirituals construct a personal spiritual that incorporates a passage from a well-known religious text
What role did spirituals play in the preservation of African culture throughout the era of slavery? What are some of the hidden meanings in spirituals that you should be aware of? What role do the lyrics of spirituals have in conveying personal meaning?
Metaphor, spirituals, poetry, lyrics, interpretation, and self-reflection are all elements of this work.
The William Still Story: A Narrative of the Underground Railroad To play the song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” you’ll need a DVD player, an MP3 player, or a CD player. Coded Lyrics Worksheet (213.6 KB) Worksheet with Coded Lyrics and Teacher Notes (215.7 KB) Classroom Student Spiritual Lyrics.pdf Classroom Student Spiritual Lyrics (214.2 KB) Video of the song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (which the instructor should pre-cut and place in a box for kids to draw from) (optional)
1. Take a look at the spirituals pieces from the Underground Railroad: The William Still Story. 2. Describe how spirituals vary from hymns and psalms in that they were written as a method of sharing the difficult circumstances of being a slave with others. Make sure to talk about the major dual meaning contained in the lyrics, as well as the purpose of the lyrics for escaping slaves (codes, faith). 3. Using an Internet site, an mp3 file, or a CD, listen to the music (stopping periodically to explain parts of the song).
- Have students complete the Coded Lyrics Worksheet as the entire class discusses the significance of the lyrics.
- Play the music once more, this time without pausing.
- Provide each kid with a unique line from a box of Student Spiritual Lyrics that have been pre-cut.
- Allow students at least twenty minutes to construct their own spirituals, and provide them with the following directions before they begin writing: It is recommended that spirituals depict the life of a slave and/or the approaching journey on the Underground Railroad.
- Creative and entertaining songs should be included in the repertoire.
Any historical facts that are presented must be accurate. 8. The length criterion must be met (determined ahead of time by teacher) If students are finished with their poetry or songs, invite them to volunteer to read or sing them in front of the class.
Students will decipher the hidden meanings in spirituals through discussion in class and the use of Coded Lyrics Worksheets (coded lyrics). In addition, the pupils will create their own spiritual. Hidden Messages in Spirituals Lesson Plan (PDF): Download it now (608.2 KB)
Program Segment for Lesson Plan
To see the video, simply click on the play icon to the right.
Music Was The Secret Language Of The Underground Railroad
While in elementary school, we were all taught about the Underground Railroad, which was a network of hidden ways slaves used to escape to freedom from slavery. It continues to be one of the most intriguing examples of bravery and resistance in the history of the United States. In spite of this, many of us have little knowledge of how it truly worked. What was the best technique for escaping slaves to figure out which way to go? What method did people use to communicate across hundreds of miles before the Internet existed?
Because it was prohibited in most southern states to educate slaves to read or write, songs coded with secret messages were used to communicate information about the trip north.
In order to connect with visitors, Harriet Tubman, sometimes known as “Moses,” employed music.
Some historians are doubtful about the origins of these songs and their secret codes because there is no recorded confirmation of their existence or of their hidden codes.
Follow The Drinking Gourd
“When the light returns and the first fowl calls, follow the drinking gourd to the water source. “Follow the drinking gourd to where the elderly guy is waiting to take you to freedom.” ” Follow The Drinking Gourd ” is considered to be one of the greatest examples of a “map song,” as it offers vital information for slaves attempting to elude capture. This poem’s first line refers to the beginning of spring (when the days are longer), which was the finest time to embark on the lengthy trek to the North.
When travelers followed the path of the constellation Polaris (the north star), they had a guide in the night sky that guided them in the direction of freedom and independence.
Wade In The Water
“Take a dip in the water. God is going to cause turmoil in the sea. What is the identity of those children who are all dressed in red? God is going to cause turmoil in the sea. They must be the ones who followed Moses. “God is going to cause turmoil in the sea.” Some believe that Harriet Tubman used the song “Wade In The Water,” which used Biblical imagery to avoid being suspected, to instruct runaway slaves on how to avoid capture and escape from slavery. If they were concerned that they were being followed, they might take cover in the water, which would keep bloodhounds off their trail.
It has been covered by a variety of artists, including Mavis Staples, Eva Cassidy, and Bob Dylan, since it was initially released as a song with words in 1901.
The title of the award-winning documentary ” Trouble The Water,” which is based on the lyrics of the song, was also inspired by lyrics from the song.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
“Swing low, lovely chariot, coming for to bring me home, Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home, Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home, Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home.” I looked around Jordan and what did I see coming for me to take me home, I don’t know. Coming after me is a group of angels who are determined to bring me home. ” Swing Low, Sweet Chariot ” is thought to be Harriet Tubman’s favorite song, and it is one of the most enduring tunes from this time period.
The Underground Railroad’s directors (sweet chariot) were known to as the “band of angels” since they would soon arrive from the south (swing low) to escort slaves up the railroad to freedom (carry me home).
Underground Music Today
While many of these songs are still well-known folk melodies today, others have fallen into obscurity as time has passed. John Legend, executive producer of WGN America’s “Underground,” is working to change that by re-recording African American folk music for a modern audience, according to the network. “Underground” combines spiritual melodies such as “Move, Daniel” and “I Got Shoes” with new music by Kanye West and The Weeknd in order to elicit a sense of resistance from the listener. John Legend is currently working on original music for the film ‘Underground.’ “I thought that all of the songs had to have a certain rawness to it,” Legend explained.
As the songs of the Underground Railroad continue to have an impact on contemporary music, we are reminded that the challenges of 1857 are not unlike from those of 2017.
Songs Related to the Abolition of Slavery
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