In this post, we discuss one of the most popular negro spirituals, “Go Down Moses” or as others call it “Let My People Go.
To be very honest it would be better to call negro spirituals, slave songs as they were actually composed by slaves and reflect their situation at that time and their hope that somehow God was going to intervene to free them from slavery. One of those slave songs or negro spirituals is this spiritual, Go Down Moses.
The power and source of most of the negro spirituals come from the Exodus experience of the children of Israel in the Bible. As we all know the Jews were once slaves in Egypt. But with God’s help, the Jews gained their freedom. The God of Abraham parted the Red Sea for the Jews to cross and they traveled safely from Egypt to the land of Canaan. A land flowing with milk and honey.
The African slaves identified with the Jews and longed for their own freedom. They thought, “If God could do that for the Jews, God can do that for us too!”
Go Down Moses is one of those songs. Most of the negro spirituals used coded messages to hide the message from their white slave masters. Israel in the songs refers to African slaves in the South of America (USA). The “pharaoh” and “Egypt” refer to the slave masters and the land of slavery, in this case, America.
The name Moses in the song actually refers to Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman was called “Moses” for her work with the Underground Railroad. The repeated refrain of the song declares, “Let My People Go!” How the white master could hear these words and think they only referred to some long-dead Egyptian Pharaoh is hard to understand. The powerful song, however, is a reminder that God is always opposed to the enslavement and oppression of people.
|Let My People Cover of Sheet Music 1862|
Below are lyrics of one version of this song:-
When Israel was in Egypt’s land: Let my people go,
Oppress’d so hard they could not stand, Let my People go.
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh,
Let my people go.
In the video below, Louis Armstrong sings this beautiful song, Go Down Moses.
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