The abolitionist story behind treasured Christmas hymns, Wk 1 of 4…

“Go Tell It on the Mountain”

John Wesley Work, Jr., an African-American professor at Fisk University in Nashville, first published the lyrics and music to this slave spiritual in 1907.

Writes Ace Collins in his book, Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas:

The song had come from the fields of the South, born from the inspiration of a slave’s Christmas, and it was unique in that, in the hundreds of Negro spirituals the work family saved from extinction, few had been written about Christmas. Most, as would seem only natural, centered on earthly pain and suffering, and the joy and happiness that only heaven seemed to offer.

Yet here, standing against the backdrop of such haunting spirituals as, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” was “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” a triumphant piece that embraced the wonder of lowly shepherds touched by God at the very first Christmas.

Chorus and verse 3...

Go, tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born.

Down in a lowly manger
Our humble Christ was born;
And God sent us salvation
That blessed Christmas morn.

“Go Tell It on the Mountain” was also an anthem of the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Peter, Paul, and Mary adapted the words to refer to the Israelites’ exodus from slavery. The Pro-Life movement could clearly adapt the words today…

Also read the abolitionist history behind “O Holy Night” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

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