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Afternoon Song – Jordan River

February 2, 2014

When the lead singer from the Georgia Mass Choir introduces “Jordan River” by exclaiming “I’m gonna take you to the old church“, he’s stating the stone cold truth.

“Jordan River” is an old spiritual.  We know it goes back to slavery days because Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, in his magnificent Army Life in a Black Regiment, includes a version of it as one of the songs his soldiers frequently sang when gathered around a campfire during the Civil War.

As is almost always the case with Negro spirituals, singing about the next world is singing about this world.  It’s not an either/or cosmology but a both/and cosmology.  Crossing over Jordan is about ending one’s life of sorrow and pain, and entering into Heaven.  It’s also about ending one’s life as enslaved property and crossing over into a land of freedom, dignity and equality in this world.

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From → History, Music, Religion

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