John Brown and his body

When you listen to those who we define as folk/protest singers and songwriters you tap into an oral history that you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. These troubadours keep alive the struggles and trials of the past that we here and now should be learning from.

I recently got hold of David Rovics’ album 10,000 Miles Away. On there he has penned a song call John Brown (least I think he wrote the lyrics!). Now if you grew up in the time and country that I did then you’ll likely be aware of the traditional chorus of John Brown’s Body. Where it came from I didn’t know, just that it shares a tune with the Battle Hymn of the Republic. More than that? Nah.

But when you listen to David’s song then the story unfolds. You realise the story is about a man whose Christian faith leads him to confront head on with action the vile slave trade in the Americas before the Revolution. You see how black and white worked together to sow the seeds that would lead to abolition in the Western English speaking nations.

These men are all talk, what we need is action!

So when you get a taste of this story then you look further and you come across people, places and events I never knew about – Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad to name a few.

All it takes is one seed, one spark.

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