Slave Songs of the United States

Slave Songs of the United States was a collection of African American music consisting of 136 songs. Published in 1867, it was the first, and most influential,[1][2] collection of spirituals to be published. The collectors of the songs were Northern abolitionists William Francis Allen, Lucy McKim Garrison, and Charles Pickard Ware.[3] It is a "milestone not just in African American music but in modern folk history".[4][5][6][7] It is also the first published collection of African-American music of any kind.[8]

Slave Songs of the United States, title page
Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Had

The making of the book is described by Samuel Charters, with an emphasis on the role of Lucy McKim Garrison.[9] A segment of History Detectives explored the book's history and significance.[10]

Notable songs

Several notable and popular songs in the book include:

  • "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" (#31)
  • "Bosom of Abraham" (#94 as "Rock My Soul")
  • "Down in the River to Pray" (#104 as "The Good Old Way")

See also


  • Chase, Gilbert (2000). America's Music: From the Pilgrims to the Present. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-00454-X.
  • Crawford, Richard (2001). America's Musical Life: A History. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-04810-1.
  • Darden, Robert (1996). People Get Ready: A New History of Black Gospel Music. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-1752-3.
  • Koskoff, Ellen, ed. (2000). Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 3: The United States and Canada. Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8240-4944-6.
  • National Conference on Music of the Civil War Era (2004). Mark A. Snell; Bruce C. Kelley (eds.). Bugle Resounding: Music and Musicians of the Civil War Era. University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0-8262-1538-6.
  • Southern, Eileen (1997). Music of Black Americans. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-03843-2.


  1. Darden, pg. 71
  2. Southern, pg. 152
  3. Crawford, pg. 416
  4. Darden, pgs. 99-100
  5. Maultsby, Portia K.; Mellonee V. Burnin; Susan Oehler. "Overview". The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. pp. 572–591.
  6. Ramsey, Jr., Guthrie P. (Spring 1996). "Cosmopolitan or Provincial?: Ideology in Early Black Music Historiography, 1867-1940". Black Music Research Journal. Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1. 16 (1): 11–42. doi:10.2307/779375. JSTOR 779375.
  7. Snell and Kelley, pg. 22
  8. Chase, pg. 215
  9. Charters, Samuel. 2015. Songs of Sorrow: Lucy McKim Garrison and "Slave Songs of the United States". Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-62846-206-7
  10. "Slave Songbook | History Detectives | PBS". Retrieved 2018-03-28.
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