Plantation to Platinum
The first Africans that arrived aboard a slave ship and sold in Jamestown came from several regions of Africa’s west coast. Arriving on plantations they were forbidden to speak in their own native language, worship, or even praise their own god. The universal language of music was used to communicate in a call and response tradition to express their grief and pain.
However, slaves like “Massa’s Servants (TM) who were introduced to and accepted Christianity were encouraged to attend religious services. They often held secret religious services so they could freely express themselves. They wrote spirituals of praise and hope, escape & freedom and many carried dual meanings and symbolic messages unknown to slave owners. The lyrics of “Steal Away” alerted slaves that a religious meeting would occur that night; slaves would sing the song all day until they notified everyone. It’s reported that Harriet Tubman underground railroad conductor used the spirituals “Wade in the Water” and “Deep River” to warn slaves to travel in the water to throw off their scent from the bloodhounds