Friday, February 10, 2012

African American Gospels

Three African American gospels that have a similar theme to each other are "Go Down Moses", "Keep Your Hands on the Plow", and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." They are all very spiritual and very religious, and quite honestly there is very, very little in them that has any relation to Trancendentalism at all.

Trancendentalists were spiritual in their own way, but they did not believe in God as the super human creator of all things. The African American gospels are based on the Bible, which portrays God as the amazing and all powerful being. "Go Down Moses" specifically tells the tale of Moses versus the Pharoh in the Egyptian desert, the message of which is at the end, being that even if not free in life, a person can be free in heaven (Huff). "Keep Your Hands on the Plow" tells a story of Paul and Silas being thrown in jail and the story of Jesus washing Peter's feet.

The theme in each of the gospels is that if a person just keeps going, keeps working, salvation will come. For the African American slaves who sang these hyms, they promise freedom from their bondage. In this sense of their meaning they are similar to Transcendentalism, because the highest goal of men like Thoreau was to be free of everyone, and to be ruled by no one other than himself. He prefered going to jail to aditting the United States of America had a legitimate right to control him. The slaves wanted freedom too, but insead of being free from a government, they wanted to at least start being free of the people that owned them.

The Trancendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau did have a tiny little bit in common with the slaves that sang these three gosples, but it really was nothing more than a love of freedom, which most people in the civilized world share. It is hard to compare really religious songs to really political essays because they tend to focus on very different themes, and almost always have a different point of view when they do happen to touch upon the same subject.

"Go Down Moses." Web. 11 Feb. 2012.

Huff, Randall. "'Go Down, Moses'." The Facts On File Companion to American Poetry, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 11 Feb. 2012. CPAP0149&SingleRecord=True.

"Keep Your Hands On The Plow." - Lyrics and Music to All Your Favorite Gospel Songs. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Lyrics." Scout Songs: Song Lyrics for Boy Scouts Songs, Girl Scouts Songs, and American Patriotic Songs. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.

Thoreau, Henry. "Thoreau's Civil Disobedience - 1." The Thoreau Reader. Web. 25
Jan. 2012.

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