Mudcat Café message #1920922 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #97553   Message #1920922
Posted By: Azizi
28-Dec-06 - 08:06 PM
Thread Name: Religious Train & Chariot Songs
Subject: RE: Religious Train & Chariot Songs
Thanks for that link to that site, Peace. is an interesting site. However, its writers belong to the "spirituals as code" school of thought much more than I do.

For example, here's an excerpt of one of that website's articles:

"...But some "drivers" also allowed slaves to sing "quiet" songs, if they were not apparently against slaveholders. Such songs could be sung either by only one soloist or by several slaves. They were used for expressing personal feeling and for cheering one another. So, even at work, slaves could sing "secret messages". This was the case of negro spirituals, which were sung at church, in meetings, at work and at home.

The meaning of these songs was most often covert. Therefore, only Christian slaves understood them, and even when ordinary words were used, they reflected personal relationship between the slave singer and God.

The codes of the first negro spirituals are often related with an escape to a free country. For example, a "home" is a safe place where everyone can live free. So, a "home" can mean Heaven, but it covertly means a sweet and free country, a haven for slaves.

The ways used by fugitives running to a free country were riding a "chariot" or a "train".

The words of "The Gospel train" are "She is coming… Get onboard… There's room for many more". This is a direct call to go way, by riding a "train" which stops at "stations".

Then, "Swing low, sweet chariot" refers to Ripley, a "station" of the Underground Railroad, where fugitive slaves were welcome. This town is atop a hill, by Ohio River, which is not easy to cross. So, to reach this place, fugitives had to wait for help coming from the hill. The words of this spirituals say,"I looked over Jordan and what did I see/ Coming for to carry me home/ A band of angels coming after me"...,+black,+negro&hl=en&gl=ca&ct=clnk&cd=1