ON THE TRAIL OF NEGRO FOLK-SONGS

A Collection Of Negro Traditional & Folk Songs with Sheet Music Lyrics & Commentaries - online book

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NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
15
the water, and their heads bound in white cloths. They came in pro­cession, two by two, singing a dirge-like song, which the hundreds of Negroes waiting at the edge of the pond caught up and joined in.
The preacher stood in the water, with a half-dozen men by him, three on each side. I wondered what their office was, but I soon learned. They were needed. As a candidate was led into the water, the preacher lifted his voice in passionate exhortation, which swept his audience into fervor of response. Shouts and groans came up, and snatches of weird song.
I'm gwine down to Jordan — Hallelu! I'm gwine down to Jordan — Hallelu! Wid de elders in de lead.
I'm so glad I got my religion in time!
You said somep'n, now, brother! Praise de Lawd!
I was told that the preacher charged a dollar a head for baptizing, — money in advance, — but I cannot vouch for that statement. I can only say that I think he earned his fees.
As the candidate was led to his place in the water, the preacher lifted his hand and said, "I, Elder Cosgrove, baptize you, Sister [or Brother] in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." One white youngster asked," Why does he put hisself in front of God? "
The candidate as he was plunged beneath the water manifested lively motion, and emotion. He struggled, and thrashed about, till it required the services of the pastor and the six helpers to get him to his feet again. Some of the candidates, amid wild excitement, lost their balance and fell heavily back into the water, to be rescued with difficulty by the helpers, amid the groans and ejaculations of the congregation.
The small white boy asked, "What makes 'em wrastle so? Do they think the baptizin' would n't take if they didn't fight?"
With each immersion the excitement grew, the shouting became more wild and unrestrained, the struggles of the candidate more violent. Women ran up and down the banks of the pond, wringing their hands, groaning and crying. I thought of the priests of Baal who leaped and shouted as they called upon their god to hear them and send down fire to light their altar. The crowd surged back and forth, and as one bystander would rush to greet a candidate coming out of the water, shrieking forth joy and thanksgiving, the crowd would join in vehement song. Sometimes half-a-dozen shouters