Using Du Bois’s chapter in The Souls of Black Folk on the sorrow songs as a heuristic or analytical framework, discuss the lyrics and the form of the spirituals "Been in the Storm So Long," "Go Down, Moses," "Steal Away to Jesus," and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

Du Bois's chapter on the sorrow songs frame them as both texts of grief and lament, and as songs of hope. All four spiritual illustrate this pattern of lament interwoven with biblical allusions to ultimate deliverance and freedom. All express the conviction that Black people will find justice and favor with God.

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Du Bois's final chapter in The Souls of Black Folk is about Black spirituals, or what he calls "Negro folk-song—the rhythmic cry of the slave." He says these songs stand

to-day not simply as the sole American music, but as the most beautiful expression of human experience born this side the seas.

He makes two points: Although white people use the songs to show that Black people were happy as slaves, they are nevertheless "the music of an unhappy people." However, they serve another function according to DuBois:

Through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope—a faith in the ultimate justice of things.

All four the songs mentioned illustrate both the grief and lament of an unhappy people and are filled with the hope of freedom that DuBois discusses.

The lyrics of "Been in the Storm so Long" contain the lament of being in a storm. This means being soaked with rain and buffeted by strong winds, an unpleasant experience that suggests a background crossing the stormy seas in a slave ship to be exiled from one's homeland, as well the uncertain elements of slavery, such as the fear of being sold, in addition to the daily toils. Nevertheless, the song also contains the hope Du Bois talks about in the lines:

Oh give me little time to pray,
And a cast my crown at Jesus feet,
Oh give me little time to pray.

The middle line, in which the speaker will cast his crown at Jesus' feet, shows his certainty of a place in heaven, a certainty not guaranteed the slaveholder.

A similar theme of overcoming oppression to achieve ultimate victory (and possibly a coded song about escape to freedom in this life) appears in the lyrics of "Steal Away to Jesus":

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus!
Steal away, steal away home, I hain't got long to stay here

"Go Down Moses" alludes to how God led the Israelites to freedom by leading them out of Egypt and to a promised land. It implies that like the Jews, Black people are God's chosen people. Consider the references to the biblical theme of escape from slavery's misery in Israel to freedom in a promised land:

Oppress'd so hard they could not stand
Let my people go

Go down, Moses
Way down in Egypt's land
Tell old Pharaoh
Let my people go

In "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," deliverance from the grief of slavery is again the theme, as the miseries of slavery are interwoven into the conviction of a better future in a true "home:"

I’m sometimes up and sometimes down,

Coming for to carry me home.

But still my soul feels heav'nly bound,

Coming for to carry me home.

The slaves got away with singing these subversive songs of lament and hope because they were biblically themed and appeared to speak of deliverance in the afterlife or in stories of another time period. But under the surface, messages of escape to freedom abound.

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