Native American Folk Song : Follow The Drinking Gourd Essay

2238 Words Dec 1st, 2016 9 Pages
The African-American folk song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd” was composed in order to provide runaway slaves the directions needed to reach the free states. This folk song provided instructions on how to avoid the white man on their journey, meaning how to avoid capture, being returned to slavery, and potential death; the verses in the song tell the slaves when to move and what to look for. In the H.B. Parks version of “Follow the Drinking Gourd”, he tells runaways:
“When the sun come back, when the firs’ quail call,
Then the time has come, foller the drinkin’ gou’d.” (Bresler 1)
These lyrics are direct guidance for runaway slaves, but through this guidance there is an undertone of how to dodge and weave around the white man. However, instructions come to an end. “Follow the Drinking Gourd” only provides instructions up until the point where slaves would cross the Mason-Dixon line into the free states. In the song, there is no guidance or instruction for the runaway slaves on how to live after crossing into the free states. The runaway slaves would enter a society in which the white man does not “own” them by law, but would still keep a tight grip on the quality of their lives as they experience the very complex idea of “freedom.” “Follow the Drinking Gourd” does not tell runway slaves that even though the physical harm of their owners had ceased, the societal whips of white privilege would impact their complex experience of “freedom” for generations to come. Further, the…

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