Negro Spirituals and Code Songs andExcerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass –1- Copy the five pages of this assignment. Read the article entitled “Spirituals and CodeSongs” excerpted from The Elements of Litereature. On your lined paper, take notes foreach of the following questions and label them appropriately. a. What are general characteristics of spirituals? b. Quote several selections in which Frederick Douglass describes spirituals. c. In “Go Down Moses,” what are some symbolic representations? d. Why is “Follow the Drinking Gourd” considered a code song?2- Read and annotate the article entitled “Negro Spirituals: Songs of Survival” by TomFaigin3- Read the excerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass found on pages563-570 in your Language of Literature anthology. Quote and cite five to sevenselections which provide the reader with a sense of the life of a slave during the mid1800s in the American South.NOTE: to cite quotes from a single source, provide just the page number in parenthesesafter the final quotation marks and before the end mark of punctuation. You may use theellipsis to indicate additional words which you have excluded. EXAMPLE: “ … went to live with Mr. Covey , on the 1st of January, 1833” (563).“Spirituals and Code Songs” excerpted from The Elements of Literature The moving and intensely emotional songs known as spirituals largely developedfrom the oral traditions of Africans held in slavery in the South before the Civil War.Spirituals, like other kinds of folk literature and music, were composed by anonymousartists and passed on orally. They were inevitably altered and refined, so numerousversions of a particular spiritual might exist. Many spirituals combine African melodiesand rhythms with elements of white Southern religious music. In this passage from My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglass writeseloquently about songs of slavery – called sorrow songs by the later African Americanwriter W.E.B. Dubois. Slaves were generally expected to sing as well as to work. A silent slave is not likedby masters or overseers. “Make a noise, make a noise,” and “bear a hand” are the wordsusually addressed to the slaves when there is silence among them. This may account forthe almost constant singing heard in the southern states… On allowance day, those whovisited the great house farm were peculiarly excited and noisy. While on their way, theywould make the dense old woods, for miles around, reverberate with their wild notes. Thesewere not always merry because they were wild. On the contrary, they were mostly of aplaintive cast, and told a tale of grief and sorrow. In the most boisterous outbursts ofrapturous sentiment, there was ever a tinge of deep melancholy. I have never heard anysongs like those anywhere since I left slavery, except when in Ireland. There I heard thesame wailing notes, and was much affected by them. It was during the famine of 1845-46. Inall the songs of the slaves, there was ever some expression in praise of the great house
farm; something which would flatter the pride of the owner, and, possibly, draw a favorableglance from him. …I cannot better express my sense of them now, than ten years ago, when, insketching my life, I thus poke of this feature of my plantation experience: …The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirits, and filled my heartwith ineffable sadness. The mere recurrence, even now, afflicts my spirit, and while I amwriting these lines, my tears are falling. To those songs I trace my first glimmeringconceptions of the dehumanizing character of slavery. I can never get rid of that conception.Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies formy brethren in bonds. If anyone wishes to be impressed with a sense of the soul-killingpower of slavery, let him got to Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, and, on allowance day, placehimself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence, thoughtfully analyze thesounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul, and if he is not thus impressed, itwill only be because “there is no flesh in his obdurate heart.” - Frederick DouglassSpirituals were concerned above all with issues of freedom; spiritual freedom in the form ofsalvation and literal freedom from the shackles of slavery. Many people during the time of slaverywere called Moses by those looking for a deliverer to loose their chains. Harriet Tubman, forexample, used Moses as her code name in her work with the Underground Railroad. A Methodistminister named Francis Asbury was also known as Moses, and according to some scholars, thespiritual “Go Down, Moses” really is a plea for Asbury’s help. Ultimately, of course, the nameMoses refers to the man who, according to the Book of Exodus in the Bible, delivered the ancientIsraelites from slavery in Egypt. Some of the songs were code songs, or signal songs – that is details in the songs providedrunaways with directions, times, and meeting places for their escape. For example, the drinkinggourd in “Follow the Drinking Gourd” is the Big Dipper, a group of stars; the two stars in the bowl ofthe Big Dipper point to the North Star. A drinking gourd is actually the shell of a vegetable relatedto the squash or melon, dried and hollowed out for drinking.
Go Down Moses Follow the Drinking GourdWhen Israel was in Egypts Land, When the Sun comes backLet my people go, And the first quail callsOpressed so hard they could not stand, Follow the Drinking Gourd,Let my people go. For the old man is a-waiting for to carryChorus you to freedomGo down, Moses, If you follow the Drinking GourdWay down in Egypts Land.Tell ol Pharoah, The riverbank makes a very good road.Let my people go. The dead trees will show you the way. Left foot, peg foot, travelling on,Thus saith the Lord, bold Moses said, Follow the Drinking Gourd.Let my people go,If not, Ill smite your first-born dead, The river ends between two hillsLet my people go. Follow the Drinking Gourd. There’s another river on the other sideNo more shall they in bondage toil, Follow the Drinking Gourd.Let my people go,Let them come out with Egypts spoil, When the great big river meets the littleLet my people go. river Follow the Drinking Gourd. For the old man is a-waiting for to carry to freedom If you follow the Drinking Gourd.