In the spiritual songs,“Give Me That Old Time Religion” and “I Want To Die Easy, When I Die” the slaves were talking about their faith. These particular spirituals dealt with the slave’s desire to continue to strengthen their faith in God. And because these songs were communal songs sung by the slaves, the call and response of the slaves during the singing of these songs only heightened their resolve and commitment to their deep faith.
“Give Me That Old Time Religion”, was created as nearly all spirituals were created, by an unknown slave or slaves who passed the song down orally generation to generation. “Give Me That Old Time Religion, was sung in the slave community to ease their pains and find comfort for their soul but mostly to ignite a passionate & sustainable faith within their souls that would help carry the heavy burden of oppression they were forced to live their daily lives under.
Sharing & reinforcing their faith in God was a high priority for the slave, and this particular song helped strengthen that faith in God. The more they sang the song the more it strengthened their faith, the more faith they had the deeper their commitment to obtain freedom from bondage as it had been described happening in the Bible centuries before when Moses led his people to freedom. This song ignites a passionate faith within ones soul and even today “Give Me That Old Time Religion” continues to be sung in many churches around the world to rekindle our faith in God.
For the slaves the spiritual, “I Want To Die Easy, When I Die” is about having a strong faith in God to deliver freedom to live their life free of bondage. The word “easy” also meant “free” and the word “die” also meant “live free”. The slaves felt deep in their souls, living as a slave in bondage was not a way of life fit for any human being. If freedom could not be theirs here on earth, they believed freedom in the “afterlife” would be given to them in Heaven. For the slave the reality here in America to become free wasn’t easy, it took a lot of fortitude, gumption and hard work to obtain it. One way was if the slave could find a way to go North to Canada or across the water, on the other side of the Ohio river they would be free from the oppression. Living free, a person could build a life that would belong to them and their children. In many of the spirituals, the words had dual meanings “Jesus” was synonymous with the word “freedom”, and “Canaan”, which is another word for “Heaven”(for the slaves “Canaan” also meant “Canada”). This song represents their desire to escape the oppression of slavery, and live a God given life of freedom and prosperity.
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