What role did African American spirituals play in the Underground Railroad?

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The African-American spiritual songs were meant to break the monotony of slave life but there were also hidden messages in them. Inside these songs were coded messages which slaves could take as signs to escape or directions on where to escape.  In the song "Sweet Chariot," the "chariot" in the...

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The African-American spiritual songs were meant to break the monotony of slave life but there were also hidden messages in them. Inside these songs were coded messages which slaves could take as signs to escape or directions on where to escape.  In the song "Sweet Chariot," the "chariot" in the song is the Underground Railroad, swinging "low" means "coming South" and "home" is the North or Canada.  It was said to be one of Harriet Tubman's favorite song.  "Follow the Drinking Gourd" refers to the Big Dipper which was a constellation that slaves used to find their way north as they traveled at night. The song "Steal Away" was also a favorite of slaves about to escape; whites would think it would be a song about Heaven, but slaves would know that the final destination would be free territory. These songs were important as most slaves could not read and it was dangerous to openly discuss escaping in white society.  

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