Mudcat Café message #1920612 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #97553   Message #1920612
Posted By: Azizi
28-Dec-06 - 01:29 PM
Thread Name: Religious Train & Chariot Songs
Subject: RE: Religious Train & Chariot Songs
Here's one other excerpt of a post that I wrote on that African American Christmas Carol thread:

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: African-American Christmas Carols
From: Azizi - PM
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 06:17 PM

...In other Mudcat threads, I've mentioned that I think that it's much too simplistic to think that enslaved African American routinely used a number of coded words such as 'train' in songs to signal that an individual or group of people were getting ready to flee slavery. I have also mentioned before that I think such a theory insults the intelligence of White folks hearing these songs, and disregards and minimizes the possibility [probability] that there would be some Black snitches who heard these songs, "got" their hidden meanings and then would have ratted on these people.

It's my position that a word can have multiple meanings in the same song, at the same time, and/or at different times. So the word "train" in an African American spiritual could [can]refer to the underground railroad. And/or the word "train" could [can] refer to the gospel train and folks needing to "get right" before they met their maker [as one never knew when the train was going to come and it might "leave them behind" to elude to a fragment from the foremost spiritual song [that I remember anyway] "Git On Board, Little Children".

To clarify my theory about the connection between the line "people come but-oh excuse me-people come and the train done gone" and the Great Migration, it's also possible that the word train might refer to that migration of Black folks from the South to the Midwest and the North [in the years 1915-1926 or thereabouts]. But I think that the word allude is more probable than the word 'refer'. What I mean by this is that I believe that it's possible that the composer[s] of this line borrowed the imagery of the crowded train stations and missed trains and added it to an already existing spiritual.