Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sunday Gospel Set . 45 | Secret code of the spirituals

Join us every Sunday to give praise with the Sunday Gospel Set on Radio Roofscape. This week we're listening for the secret codes that the slaves hid inside the spirituals they sang. Our featured video is Yolanda Rhodes singing Wade in the Water. Here's the current set list ...

Yolanda Rhodes - Wade in the Water
Beyonce - Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
The Ishmel Sisters - Follow the Drinking Gourd
Sacred Harp 87 - Oh Canaan, Sweet Canaan
Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon - Steal Away to Jesus
Fisk University Jubilee Quartet - I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray

On the eve of his escape to freedom in the company of a few fellow captives, the mood on Frederick Douglass' plantation was jubilant. That happiness and determination were coded into song to keep their spirits up and steel them for the trials ahead.
We were, at times, remarkably buoyant, singing hymns and making joyous exclamations, almost as triumphant in their tone as if we reached a land of freedom and safety. A keen observer might have detected in our repeated singing of
O Canaan, sweet Canaan,
I am bound for the land of Canaan,
something more than a hope of reaching heaven. We meant to reach the north - and the north was our Canaan.
I thought I heard them say,
There were lions in the way,
I don't expect to Star
Much longer here.
Run to Jesus - shun the danger
I don't expect to stay
Much longer here.
was a favorite air, and had a double meaning. In the lips of some, it meant the expectation of a speedy summons to a world of spirits; but, in the lips of our company, it simply meant, a speedy pilgrimage toward a free state, and deliverance from all the evils and dangers of slavery.
My Bondage and My Freedom. Frederick Douglass, 1855.

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