Spiritual and protest songs
Read and answer the questions for both “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Go Down, Moses.” They are google, you can search it.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
This song can be interpreted as a religious or protest song. Answer the following questions:
- If you view the song as carrying a religious message, explain what the chariot represents. What is meant by the word “home”? What is the overall subject of the song?
- If you interpret this song as a protest song, depicting a slave’s desire for freedom, explain what the chariot represents. What is meant by the word “home”? What does Jordan, the river that formed the boundary to the Promised Land in ancient times, represent in this case? What does the “band of angels” represent?
- For what types of situations would people write protest songs today?
- Give an example of a modern-day protest song (Provide the name of the song and the artist. You may provide an example of the lyrics as long as they are appropriate to the class.) And briefly summarize what message it contains.
Go Down, Moses
In this song, the ancient Israelites in Egypt are being compared to the American slaves. Egypt, the land of bondage, represents the oppressive South. Moses represents a leader who will take them to freedom. Answer the following questions:
- Who does Pharaoh represent? Who do the Israelites represent?
- Harriet Tubman led slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. She became known as the “Moses of her people” and once said to a slave who was too scared to continue, “You’ll be free or die a slave.” Compare her words to Patrick Henry’s famous line, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
- Give an example of a modern-day song that inspires people to fight against injustice. Provide the name of the song and the artist. You may provide an example of the lyrics as long as they are appropriate for the class.
Like the spirituals that carried messages of protest and inspiration to fight against injustice, some modern songs carry similar messages relevant to controversies in today’s world. You now have the chance to explore these messages and the rhetorical strategies used to advance the arguments.
The skill of comparison and contrast will serve you well with academic writing and the AP Language and Composition Exam. For this assignment, you will write an essay that compares and contrasts the rhetorical strategies used in the spirituals and modern protest songs and their impact on the audience.
In order to write this analysis, complete the following steps:
- Choose a modern protest song.
- Identify and discuss the distinct purposes of your selected song and the spirituals you studied in this lesson. You may need to research the historical context in order to better understand the authors’ purposes.
- Compare and contrast the rhetorical strategies as well as their effects in each text.
- Use specific textual examples in your analysis.
- Comment on the significance of your observations. What does your analysis reveal about the power of language?