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"Go Down, Moses"

This song was originally published as "O! Let My People Go: The Song of the Contrabands." Though it is generally thought of as a spiritual, it was first recorded as sheet music after having been heard as a rallying cry for the ex-slaves at Fort Monroe in Virginia. The original sheet music, available at the Library of Congress website, has the year 1861 handwritten on the front, and on the fifth page informs that "This Song has been sung for about nine years by the Slaves of Virginia."

Download Go Down Moses - Robeson.mp3 (Mp3 Audio) Duration: 2:07

When Israel was in Egypt's land,
     Let my people go;
Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
     Let my people go.

Chorus:
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt's land;
Tell old Pharoah, to let my people go.

Thus saith the Lord, bold Moses said,
     Let my people go;
If not I'll smite your first born dead,
     Let my people go. 

No more shall they in bondage toil,
     Let my people go;
Let them come out with Egypts spoil,
     Let my people go.

Oh 'twas a dark and dismal night,
     Let my people go;
When Moses led the Israelites,
     Let my people go.

The Lord told Moses what to do,
     Let my people go;
To lead the children of Israel through,
     Let my people go.

O come along, Moses, you won't get lost,
     Let my people go;
Stretch out your rod and come across,
     Let my people go.

As Israel stood by the water side,
     Let my people go;
At the command of God it did divide,
     Let my people go.

And when they reached the other side,
     Let my people go;
They sand a song of triumph o'er,
     Let my people go.

You won't get lost in the wilderness,
     Let my people go;
With a lighted candle in your breast,
     Let my people go.

O let us all from bondage flee,
     Let my people go;
And let us all in Christ be free,
     Let my people go.

We need not always weep and moan,
     Let my people go;
And wear these slavery chains forlorn,
     Let my people go.

What a beautiful morning that will be,
     Let my people go;
When time breaks up in eternity,
     Let my people go.

Source | The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Vol. B. Ed. Paul Lauter. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 2872-2873. Original sheet music available at Library of Congress, Performing Arts Encyclopedia, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.200001991/pageturner.html
Creator | Unknown
Composer | Unknown
Lyricist | Unknown
Publisher | Horace Waters
Item Type | Music/Song
Cite This document | Unknown, “"Go Down, Moses",” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 17, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/852.

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