Swing Low Sweet Chariot Historical Context

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"Swing Low Sweet Chariot" is a spiritual song in the style developed by American Negro slaves during the nineteenth century. Although there is no one particular author associated with these lyrics, the style is clearly recognizable, and all of the individual elements that we can see in this poem are easy to trace back to slave experiences. First is the repetition of the refrain on every even-numbered line. This pattern goes back to work songs which were sung by slaves since their arrival in America, with written records going back to the 1600s. The purpose for this call-and-response pattern was to allow the group to participate by singing the refrain while a solo singer could add various lines to compliment the basic thought. Slaves were encouraged to sing while working, because singing kept them moving in a regular pattern, and this made their work progress tirelessly without interruption...

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This section contains 662 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Swing Low Sweet Chariot Study Guide
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Poetry for Students
Swing Low Sweet Chariot from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.