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“The Good Old Way” Or “Down To The River To Pray”

This song hereunder, beautifully sung by Alison Krauss, was often sung by victims of slavery and contained coded messages with regards their attempts to escape.

When the enslaved people escaped, they would walk in the “river” because the water covered their scent from bounty-hunters’ dogs and slave catchers.

Similarly, the words “starry crown” possibly refers to those attempting to escape, to remember to navigate by using the stars.

The words “Good Lord, show me the way” is most likely a prayer for God’s guidance in their efforts to find an escape route, commonly known as the “Underground Railroad.”

The “Underground Railroad” referred too above, was an established network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the 19th century and used by enslaved African Americans to enable their escape into northern free states or Canada.
Regarded as the Father of the “Underground Railroad “; William Still helped hundreds of slaves to escape often hiding them in his home in Philadelphia.
Others unaware of this network of escape routes, would escape independently of the “Underground Railroad”, to take up residence in the swamplands of Virginia and North Carolina, having escaped their cruel enslavement.

A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp.
By Author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

“Away to the Dismal Swamp he speeds,
His path was rugged and sore,
Through tangled juniper, beds of reeds,
Through many a fen, where the serpent feeds, and man never trod before.
And, when on the earth he sunk to sleep,
If slumber his eyelids knew,
He lay where the deadly vine doth weep
Its venomous tears, that nightly steep
The flesh with blistering dew.”

The International Labour Organization estimates that, by their definitions, over 40 million people are in some form of slavery tonight.

“The Good Old Way” or “Down To The River To Pray”.

As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way,
O sisters, let’s go down,
Let’s go down, come on down,
O sisters, let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.
As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the robe and crown,
Good Lord, show me the way.
O brothers, let’s go down,
Let’s go down, come on down,
Come on, brothers, let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.
As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the starry crown,
Good Lord, show me the way.
O fathers, let’s go down,
Let’s go down, come on down,
O fathers, let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.
As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the robe and crown,
Good Lord, show me the way.
O mothers, let’s go down,
Come on down, don’t you wanna go down?
Come on, mothers, let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.
As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the starry crown,
Good Lord, show me the way.
O sinners, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O sinners, let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.
As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the robe and crown,
Good Lord, show me the way.

END

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