An international performer took an audience on a musical journey highlighting the plight of runaway slaves during a conversation series Wednesday evening.
Reggie Harris is not only an entertainer; he’s also a lecturer and cultural ambassador. During his Looking For Lincoln performance, he said slaves used singing not only as secret coding but also as inspiration.
“They would sing songs to bring their spirits alive,” he said. “'This joy that I have, the world didn't give it to me, Oh, the world didn't give it so the world can’t take it away.'”
Harris said the masters had no idea the enslaved people were spreading hidden messages through song.
As an example, he sang lines from an old hymn: “Let us break bread together on our knees. When I fall on my knees, with my face to the rising sun.”
He explained that this was a message about an early morning meeting for those in bondage.
“Songs of the Underground Railroad” was hosted by folk musician Chris Vallillo.
This event is a part of the coalition’s conversation series and is available for viewing on the Looking For Lincoln Facebook page.
- Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.