Identify one biblical allusion in each song or spiritual. Explain how each allusion functions as an allegory. 

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

A biblical allusion in "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" can be seen in the reference to the River Jordan.  The Jordan River is significant in the Biblical narrative.  It is the river that streams through the Holy Land, and represents what the ancient Israelites followed in their search for the Promised Land.  The allegorical meaning of the River Jordan marks where suffering no longer exists.  It is a physical point, a barrier that slaves can see that serves as a demarcation as to where they wish to go.  The allegorical meaning of the River Jordan can be seen as the Ohio River, which marked the point where slaves could go and be free.  Since Ohio was a free state, the Ohio River marked freedom for slaves, akin to how the River Jordan represents the search for the Promised Land.

In "Go Down, Moses," the biblical reference to Pharaoh is deliberate.  Slaveowners in the South were embodiment of Pharaoh, the Israelites were the slaves.  Moses could be seen as the deliverance of the divine, or someone like Harriet Tubman, whose work on the Underground Railroad earned her the nickname of "Black Moses."  With the invocation of Moses and Pharaoh, the spiritual is able to operate on an a biblical level in expressing the reality that slaves experienced.


We’ve answered 318,948 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question