It is difficult to spend a week reflecting on the epic moments in history like the Moses story in the Bible without singing the song, “Go Down Moses.” This very famous African American spiritual speaks directly to oppression and freedom and God’s goal of liberation. Many slave owners prohibited singing this song for they understood the Moses story to be speaking against slavery of all kinds.
“Go down, Moses,” was first heard being sung by “contrabands,” the name given to slaves caught running away and being held at Fort Monroe. Rev. Lewis Lockwood heard the song and translated it onto sheet music. It was then published in 1862. The Nile valley was considered lower than Jerusalem so when Moses was told by God to go to Egypt, he had to go down to Egypt. Many slaves in the underground railroad had to cross rivers and going down the Mississippi was going down into slave country. From this came the saying, to be “sold down the river.”
Core to the Christian story is the call to liberation from slavery and specifically liberation from slavery to sin. Our epic hero, God, is making a nation where people can be free and live their potential. He will make it happen. Below are two famous versions of the song for your enjoyment.
Paul Robeson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtLcELU1brA Louis Armstrong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf6jBP4YXwo