We had a fascinating time with Jim Thomas, music historian. We learned all sorts of facts about the songs known as Spirituals, and the true meanings behind them. The Slaves sang the songs so that they sounded like they were being “good” workers (following plantation bosses’ rules) and not speaking to eachother, while really they were communicating about ways to escape slavery.
“Follow the Drinking Gourd” told the direction ( follow North Star on Big Dipper) and time: “When the 1st quail calls,” meant: begin walking when it’s cold and end at the Ohio River when it’s frozen (so you would be able to walk across the ice to freedom.) Any train or track song referred to the Underground Railroad. Jordan = the Atlantic. Angels = conductors on the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman = Chariot. “Wade in the Water” was to erase your scent so you can hide from the bloodhounds. Jim Thomas taught us so much more than this today, it was amazing. And he sang with his wonderful deep voice as well.
Thank you for gracing our Children’s Program Room, Jim, and to Leigh for arranging for J. Thomas to visit us.