Monday, February 4, 2008

National Geographics Underground Railroad Site

video
Lots of good resources here. I took screen shots of the "Journey" activity and made them into (a barely visible here) slide show. I learned something about the soundtrack, Wade In the Water, on this site

Wade in the water (children)
Wade in the water
Wade in the water
God's gonna trouble the water
If you don't believe I've been redeemed
God's gonna trouble the water
I want you to follow him on down to Jordan stream
(I said) My God's gonna trouble the water
You know chilly water is dark and cold
(I know my) God's gonna trouble the water
You know it chills my body but not my soul
(I said my) God's gonna trouble the water
(Come on let's) wade in the water
Wade in the water (children)
Wade in the water
God's gonna trouble the water
Now if you should get there before I do
(I know) God's gonna trouble the water
Tell all my friends that I'm comin' too
(I know) God's gonna trouble the water
Sometimes I'm up lord and sometimes I'm down
(You know my) God's gonna trouble the water
Sometimes I'm level to the ground
God's gonna trouble the water
(I Know) God's gonna trouble the water
Wade in the water (children)
Wade out in the water (children)
God's gonna trouble the water
To try and de-code this song now is difficult. Firstly we don’t know what the code is but which must have been quite sophisticated if it was to fool the Massa’s and the bounty hunters. The second problem is that there is no guarantee that these are indeed the original lyrics. The slave songs were passed on by word of mouth and never written down. There may well have been several other variants before we arrived at the gospel version we see here. None the less there are still enough references for us to say it was originally about escape. The very title of ‘Wade in the Water’ is advice to the runaways on how to avoid being tracked by bloodhounds. The reference to ‘Jordan’ could well be the Promised Land, in this case Canada where slavery did not exist. ‘It chills my body, but not my soul’ is reference to the physical discomforts that the journey will take, but at the same time is trying to bolster the spirits. ‘Now if you should get there before I do’ and ‘Tell my friends that I’m a comin’ too’ are much more obvious allusions to a journey.
“Wade in the Water” is an important soul record because of its historical links. It has a clear and traceable lineage way back to the cotton fields. A record which the soul fraternity now dance the night away to was once a song which pointed the way to freedom, and may even have saved lives.

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