Music In The Colored Conventions
What Did They Sing?
Black Patriotism in the Civil War Era
The chart below shows that there is a sharp increase in the mention of patriotic songs during the 1860s.
This increase in the mentions of Patriotic songs, many of which are sung during 1865 conventions, is significant because the following events occur during this same year: the Freedman’s Bureau is formed on March 3, the Civil War Ends on April 7, Abraham Lincoln is Assassinated on April 14, and those who conspired to kill Lincoln are condemned to death on July 7.
The patriotic songs that were mentioned in the minutes include:
- “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”
- National Song (Most likely the National Anthem)
- “Rally Around the Flag, Boys,”
- “Our Country”
- “Flag of the Free”
- “The Glory of the Free.”
- “Sherman’s March to the Sea,”
- “Washington, our Capital, is free,”
- “The Red, White, and Blue;”
All of the songs listed above were mentioned in conventions that took place between 1865 and 1866. Halls full of convention participants sung these songs as the war came to a close in 1865. Based on the titles of these songs, especially the ones that include the word “Free” that convention participants were celebrating the abolishment of slavery and the dream that Black people would be given full and equal citizenship rights. So, it is easy to imagine how emotional it must have been for Black people to gather together at this time.
“My Country Tis Of Thee”
“My Country Tis of Thee” was sung during the following conventions:
- June 6-7, 1865 State Convention in Connecticut,
- August 2-5, 1865 State Convention in Virginia,
- and the August 9-10, 1865 State Convention in Pennsylvania.
These dates also confirm the correlation between the end of the Civil War and the increase in patriotic songs in the minutes. What is interesting about the song “My Country ‘Tis of Thee, is that abolitionist A.G. Duncan wrote an anti-slavery verse to the song in 1843. Its is highly likely that convention participants knew and sung this verse often. Also, note that “My Country Tis of Thee” was described as “Patriotic Hymn” in the Virginia Convention listed above. This again emphasizes that Black peoples religious and political ethics come together in song.
See the lyrics to anti-slavery verse of “My Country Tis of Thee” below:
My country, ’tis of thee,
Stronghold of slavery, of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Where men man’s rights deride,
From every mountainside thy deeds shall ring.
My native country, thee,
Where all men are born free, if white’s their skin;
I love thy hills and dales,
Thy mounts and pleasant vales;
But hate thy negro sales, as foulest sin.
Let wailing swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees the black man’s wrong;
Let every tongue awake;
Let bond and free partake;
Let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.
Our father’s God! to thee,
Author of Liberty, to thee we sing;
Soon may our land be bright,
With holy freedom’s right,
Protect us by thy might, Great God, our King.
It comes, the joyful day,
When tyranny’s proud sway, stern as the grave,
Shall to the ground be hurl’d,
And freedom’s flag, unfurl’d,
Shall wave throughout the world, O’er every slave.
Trump of glad jubilee!
Echo o’er land and sea freedom for all.
Let the glad tidings fly,
And every tribe reply,
“Glory to God on high,” at Slavery’s fall!