Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

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Foster of the credit of having written the melody of his song; he would have felt justified had he taken it from the lips of a slave, but it is more than likely that he invented it and that it was borrowed in part for a hymn by the negroes. The "spirituals" are much sophisticated with worldly sentiment and phrase.
There are surprisingly few references to the servitude of the blacks in their folksongs which can be traced to ante-bellum days. The text of "Mother, is Massa Gwine to sell us To-morrow?" would seem to be one of these; but it is not in the earliest collection and may be of later date in spite of its sentiment. I present three interesting examples which celebrate the deliverance from slavery, of which two, "Many Thousands Gone"1 and "Many Thousand Go"2 are obviously musical variants of the same song (see pages 18, 19, 20). Colonel Higginson, who collected the second, says of it in his "Atlantic Monthly" essay: "They had another song to which the Rebellion had actually given rise. This was composed by nobody knew whom—though it was the most recent, doubtless, of all these 'spirituals'—and had been sung in secret to avoid detection. It is certainly plaintive enough. The peck of corn and pint of salt were slavery's rations." The editors of "Slave Songs" add: "Lieutenant-Colonel Trow­bridge learned that it was first sung when Beauregard took the slaves to the islands to build the fortifications at Hilton Head and Bay Point." The third song, "Done wid Driber's Dribin'," was first printed in Mr. H. G. Spauld-ing's essay "Under the Palmetto" in the "Continental Monthly" for August, 1863. The song "Oh, Freedom over Me," which Dr. Burghardt du Bois quotes in his "The Souls of Black Folk" as an expression of longing for deliverance from slavery encouraged by fugitive slaves and the agitation of free negro leaders before the War of the Rebellion, challenges no interest for its musical contents, since it is a compound of two white men's tunes—"Lily Dale," a sentimental ditty, and "The Battle-Cry of Free­dom," a patriotic song composed by George F. Root, in
' Fisk Jubilee Collection, No. 23 "Slave Songs," No. 64
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