Slave Song

"Slave Song" is a song by composer Adolphus C. Hailstork setting a selection from Frederick Douglass's The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

Date: 1996Composer: Adolphus C. HailstorkText: Frederick Douglass

Print vitals & song text


Excerpt from Chapter 10 of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Go on, go on, oh ships!

You are loosed from your moorings…[you] are free; [and] I am fast in my chains…a slave! You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip! You are freedom’s swift-winged angels, that fly [a]round the world; I am confined in bands of iron! O that I were free! O, that I were on one of your gallant decks…under your protecting wing!

Go on, go on, oh ships!

…Why was I born a man…to make a brute! Why am I a slave? O God, save me…deliver me! Let me be free! [I shall not live and die as a slave.] I will not stand it. Get caught, or get clear, I’ll try it…I had [rather get]…killed running as die standing.

Go on, go on, oh ships!

…Only think of it; one hundred miles straight north, and I am free!…I will take to the water. I will…walk straight through Delaware…and when I get there, I shall not be required to have a pass.

Go on, go on, oh ships! Only think of it; one hundred miles straight north, and I am free! [Shall I] try it?


Sheet Music

Second Anthology of Art Songs by Black American Composers (Out-of-Print)

Composer(s): Leslie Adams, Adolphus Hailstork, John Rosamond Johnson, Hall Johnson, Betty Jackson King, Howard Swanson, John W. Work III

Song(s): "Prayer" (H. Leslie Adams)
"Flying" (H. Leslie Adams)
"Midas, Poor Midas" (H. Leslie Adams)
"Christ at a Wedding" (H. Leslie Adams)
"The Future" (T.J. Anderson)
"I Want to Be Free" (T.J. Anderson)
"People" (T.J. Anderson)
"Life" (T.J. Anderson)
"Hymn to Parnassus"(R. Nathaniel Dett)
"Music I Heard with You" (Roger Dickerson)
"I Dream a World" (Uzee Brown Jr.)
"If He Only Walked in Gardens" (Mark Fax)
"Entreat Me Not" (Mark Fax)
"Slave Song" (Adolphus Hailstork)
"Songs of Love and Justice": "Justice," "Difficulties," "Decisions," "Love" (Adolphus Hailstork)
"Four Love Songs: "My Heart to Thy Heart," "Invitation to Love," "Longing," "Goodnight," "If we must die"(Adolphus Hailstork)
"Three Simple Songs": "In Vain," "The Daffodils," "Christmas Everywhere" (Adolphus Hailstork)
"Lil' gal" (J. Rosamond Johnson)
"Crossing the Bar" (Hall Johnson)
"The Foundling" (Hall Johnson)
"Thou Art My Lute" (Thomas Kerr Jr.)
"In Memoriam" (Thomas Kerr Jr.)
"Soliloquy (Haunted)" (Thomas Kerr Jr.)
"When You Feel a Little Blue" (James Lee III)
"Three Dunbar Poems": "Compensation," "Theology," "Dawn" (Betty Jackson King)
"Hatred" (Robert L. Morris)
"Ubique" (Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson)
"The Faithless Shepherdess" (Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson)
From "Thirteen Jazz Settings": "In Case You Put Me Down," "They All Say You're Lovely," "No, Babe, We Never Swing," "You are Not Quite the Air," "In Your Arms Baby" (Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson)
"One Day" (Howard Swanson)
"Snow Dunes" (Howard Swanson)
"Breathe on Me, Breath of God" (John W. Work, III)

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