LEARN MORE: John Wesley Work & Fisk University Singers
Work collected, transcribed and published in numerous songs born from the oral traditions of African-American slavery. Many were sung by the original Fisk Jubilee Singers after the Civil War.
“Go Tell It…” embodies the faith many slaves deeply held that Christianity was their route to freedom once they unraveled the scriptures for themselves. This enthusiasm contrasted with their acquiescence to the idea that Christianity encouraged passive submission, an idea passed on as their owners taught them only select Bible passages to justify enslavement.
As with many slave songs, “Go Tell It…” is coded. The title implies the direct evangelical imperative to go and tell others of Him that Jesus gave after His resurrection; His earlier declaration that even the rocks would tell who He is, and the post-birth sharing by the birth by the shepherds and the Wise Men. Such allusions made the song palatable to owners who missed the potential abolitionist cues “to go” from place to places and prepare for liberation.
The latter idea was not lost upon civil rights advocates in the 1960s who adapted the tune and lyrics as a freedom song.
Many recorded arrangements of “Go Tell It…” embellish the lyrics with joyous gospel funk rhythms, and live choirs embrace the audience sing-along qualities. Either interpretation is effective. The #CarolStoryPlaylist includes video versions that show the universality of the lyrics, and represent the sacred passion of the Negro spirituals which Works captured from the Jubilee Singers.
The playlist again employs a rendition by the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson, that reflects the soulful hope characteristic in spirituals.
The universal influence of “Go Tell It…” is illustrated in two videos borrowed from the playlist of “Freedom Song,” the Kingdom Impact Theater Ministries historical program about African-American music and Biblical scriptures. One is a recording by a choir in Oslo, Norway. The other, by the 1960s folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary, captures the abolitionist spirit by adapting the lyrics as a civil rights anthem show.
LEARN MORE: Adapted Lyrics and Recordings History.
Meet John Wesley Work
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
LEARN MORE: Mahalia Jackson Biography
Mahalia Jackson is also one of the individuals whose story is included in the Kingdom Impact Theater production, “Faith, Hope & Love: History-Making Women of Faith,” a one-woman performance by Vikki J. Myers.
Oslo Gospel Choir
LEARN MORE: Oslo Gospel Choir History
Peter, Paul & Mary
LEARN MORE: Peter, Paul and Mary History.
The KIT 'n' Kaboodle Blog
The essays here are culled from our travels, conversations, worship experiences and discoveries.
Many are reprints from our newsletter, The KIT 'n' Kaboodle, or Facebook notes over time.
They're written by our ensemble, Garlan Garner, Michael Edgar Myers or Vikki J. Myers -- solo, or collectively.