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ImageLaVonne
Jul 24, 2011 6:57 AM CST
Name: Dorothy (LaVonne) Mitchell
Somerset, KY

Follow the Drinking Gourd

A Folk Song
When the sun comes back,
and the first Quail calls,
Follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd.

Chorus:
Follow the drinking gourd,
Follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd.

The riverbank will make a very good road,
The dead trees show you the way.
Left foot, peg foot traveling on,
Following the drinking gourd.

The river ends between two hills,
Follow the drinking gourd,
There's another river on the other side,
Follow the drinking gourd.

When the great big river meets the little river,
Follow the drinking gourd.
For the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd.
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Tahlmorra lujhala mei wiccan
(The fate of a man rests always within the hands of the gods)
ImageRoadrunner
Jul 25, 2011 9:02 AM CST
Name: Jo Miklovic
Hereford, AZ

Do you think this might have been sung by slaves telling about the Underground Railroad to freedom? Jo
ImageLaVonne
Jul 25, 2011 9:44 AM CST
Name: Dorothy (LaVonne) Mitchell
Somerset, KY

The American folksong Follow the Drinking Gourd was first published in 1928. The Drinking Gourd song was supposedly used by an Underground Railroad operative to encode escape instructions and a map. These directions then enabled fleeing slaves to make their way north from Mobile, Alabama to the Ohio River and freedom. Taken at face value, the "drinking gourd" refers to the hollowed out gourd used by slaves (and other rural Americans) as a water dipper. But here it is used as a code name for the Big Dipper star formation, which points to Polaris, the Pole Star, and North.

http://www.followthedrinkinggourd.org/

Maybe I should do a book report on this..what ya think?
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Tahlmorra lujhala mei wiccan
(The fate of a man rests always within the hands of the gods)
ImageRoadrunner
Jul 25, 2011 3:44 PM CST
Name: Jo Miklovic
Hereford, AZ

It must have been around a long time before publication as the slaves were freed in about 1863..?? during the Civil War. Jo
ImageLaVonne
Jul 25, 2011 4:18 PM CST
Name: Dorothy (LaVonne) Mitchell
Somerset, KY

The American folksong Follow the Drinking Gourd was first published in 1928.
The song inspired a well-received novel of the same name by the southern writer, Frances Gaither, in 1940

What the Lyrics Mean
The following explanations are drawn principally from the H.B. Parks article, supplemented by my own research.

H.B. Parks Version
LYRICS EXPLANATION
VERSE 1 Taken together, this verse suggests escaping in the spring and heading North to freedom.
When the sun come back, Refers to the winter or spring. The days are getting longer, and the angle of the sun is higher each day at noon.
When the firs' quail call, Refers to the breeding season. Quail in Alabama start calling to each other in early to mid-April.
Then the time is come
Foller the drinkin' gou'd. The "drinkin' gou'd" alludes to the hollowed out gourd used by slaves (and other rural Americans) as a water dipper. Used here it is a code name for the Big Dipper star formation, which points to Polaris, the Pole Star, and North.
CHORUS
Foller the drinkin' gou'd,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd;
For the ole man say, "Ole man" is nautical slang for "Captain" (or "Commanding Officer.") According to Parks, the Underground Railroad operative Peg Leg Joe was formerly a sailor.
"Foller the drinkin' gou'd."
VERSE 2 Describes how to follow the route, from Mobile, Alabama north.
The riva's bank am a very good road, The first river in the song is the Tombigbee, which empties into Mobile Bay. Its headwaters extend into northeastern Mississippi.
The dead trees show the way, According to Parks, Peg Leg Joe marked trees and other landmarks "with charcoal or mud of the outline of a human left foot and a round spot in place of the right foot." (1)
Lef' foot, peg foot goin' on,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.
CHORUS
VERSE 3 Describes the route through northeastern Mississippi and into Tennessee.
The riva ends a-tween two hills, The headwaters of the Tombigbee River end near Woodall Mountain, the high point in Mississippi and an ideal reference point for a map song. The "two hills" could mean Woodall Mountain and a neighboring lower hill. But the mountain itself evidently has a twin cone profile and so could represent both hills at once. (More on the route to come.)
Foller the drinkin' gou'd;
'Nuther riva on the other side The river on the other side of the hills is the Tennessee, which extends outward in an arc above Woodall Mountain. The left-hand side proceeds virtually due north to the Ohio river border with Illinois – definitely the preferred route, since the right hand side meanders back into northern Alabama and then proceeds up into Tennessee.
Follers the drinkin' gou'd.
CHORUS
VERSE 4 Describes the end of the route, in Paducah, Kentucky.
Wha the little riva When the Tennessee...
Meet the grea' big un, ...meets the Ohio River. The Tennessee and Ohio rivers come together in Paducah, KY, opposite southern Illinois.
The ole man waits-- Per one of Parks's informants, the runaways would be met on the banks of the Ohio by the old sailor. Of course, the chances that Peg Leg Joe himself would be there to meet every escapee (as depicted literally in the children's books) are quite small.
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.
http://cubits.org
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http://cubits.org/Diabetes/
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Tahlmorra lujhala mei wiccan
(The fate of a man rests always within the hands of the gods)
ImageRoadrunner
Jul 25, 2011 6:51 PM CST
Name: Jo Miklovic
Hereford, AZ

Very intersting...and I am a History buff anyhow.
Thanks, Jo
ImageLaVonne
Dec 16, 2011 11:30 AM CST
Name: Dorothy (LaVonne) Mitchell
Somerset, KY

When I home schooled my grandson we read FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD. It was a children's book of an old grandfather telling his granddaughter about the slaves and their escape from slavery. He told her that the drinking gourd looked like the big dipper and the slaves followed it in the sky.
http://cubits.org
http://cubits.org/gourds/
http://cubits.org/Diabetes/
http://cubits.org/DMEnterprises/store

Tahlmorra lujhala mei wiccan
(The fate of a man rests always within the hands of the gods)

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