Negro Folk Songs

Negro Folk Songs: (Contributed by William Warfield, Col.)

These songs more commonly called plantation melodies, originated with the negroes of the South during the days of slavery. They habe been somewhat collected and written about.

These songs have for the Negro the same value that the folk songs of any people have for that people. In the days of slavery they furnished an outlet for aching hearts and anguished souls. Today they help to foster race pride and to remind the race of the “rock from which it was hewn”. Some of these folk songs represented the lighter side of the slave’s life, as for example,

“Heave away! Heave away! I’d rudder co’t a yallar gal Dan work foh Henry Clay Heave away, yaller gal, I want to go.” or:

“Ole Massa take dat new brown coat, And hang it on de wall; Dat darkey take dat same old coat, And wear it to de ball, Oh, don’t you hear my tru lub sing?” It was in their religious song, however that they poured out their souls. Three things are especially emphasized in these song. First this life is full of sorrow or trouble:

“Nobody knows da truble I sees, Nobody but Jesus.” Second, religion is the best thing in the world. It enables you, though a slave, to have joy of the soul, to endure the trials. Future life is happy and eternal:

“We’ll walk dem golden streets, We’ll walk dem golden streets, We’ll walk dem golden streets, Wear pleasure nebber dies.” or:

“Oh! I’se a-gwine to lib always, Oh! I’se a-gwine to lib always, Oh! I’se a-gwine to lib always, Wen I git in de kingdom.”


Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007-2024. The WPA Slave Narratives must be used with care. There is, of course, the problem of confusion in memory resulting from (73+ years) of the participants. In addition, inexperienced interviewers sometimes pursued question lines related to their own interests and perspectives and attempted to capture the colloquialism of the informant's speech. The interviews provide fascinating insight and surprisingly candid information, however.

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