Folk Song Of The American Negro - Online Book

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80                      FOLK BONG OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO.
the same soul of anguish. These songs were born from the same heart at the same time and under the same condition.
"Before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave, And a-don't let it catch you with your work undone.
A master of a Tennessee plantation had sold a mother from her babe, and the day for the separation was fast approaching when the mother was to be taken "down South." Now, the condition of the slave in Tennessee was better than that in any other state, with the possible exception of Virginia. To be sold "South" was, to the slave, to make the journey from which no traveler ever returned. So it was'not strange that the mother would sooner take her life and that of her babe, than to go down into Mississippi, which, to her, was going to her grave. Bent upon throwing herself and her child over the steep banks of the Cumbeiiand Eiver, she was stumbling along the dusty road, her infant clasped close to her breast, muttering in frenzy her dire determination, "Before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave!" An old "mammy," seeing the terrible expression on her face, and hearing these words, read her intentions. In love she laid her dear old hand upon the shoulder of the distressed mother and said, "Don't you do it, honey; wait, let de chariot of de Lord swing low, and let me take one of de Lord's scrolls an' read it to you." Then, making a motion as reaching for something, and unrolling it, she read, "God's got a great work for dis baby to do; she's goin' to stand befo' kings and queens. Don't you do it, honey.'1' The mother was so impressed with the words of the old "mammy" she gave up her fell design and allowed herself to be taken off down into Mis�sissippi, leaving her baby behind. These two songs grew by degrees, as they passed from mouth to mouth, until they reached their present state. That prophecy of the old "mammy" was literally fulfilled. After the war, the baby girl entered Fisk University and was a mem�ber of the Original Fisk Jubilee Singers, who stood before kings and queens. When the tour of the singers was ended, this girl set out to find her mother, and after searching for some time, found her and brought her into a beautiful home, where she lived in love and com�fort until the summer of 1912, when "the Sweet Chariot Swung Low" and bore her home. She had been unconscious for some hours, but when she heard the strains of this, her heart-born song, which was

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III