Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Fisk Jubilee Singers

Fisk Jubilee Singers

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, is one of the old African-American spiritual songs. The original author is unknown. The song was made popular in America by the Fisk University Singers, a group that was organized to raise money to keep their debt ridden school from closing. The school was founded in 1866 following the Civil War.

The group sang at a National Council of Congregational Churches and the delegates were very impressed with their beautiful soulful harmony. Their name, Jubilee Singers, was taken from the Jewish law, the Year of Jubilee that was held every 50th year. During this year, debts were forgiven and slaves were freed. They felt the name was appropriate since many of the singers and their parents were newly freed slaves.

Henry Ward Beecher (a pastor from Brooklyn) invited the group to sing at his church in 1871, where the crowd took up a $1300 offering for the Jubilee singers. Following this meeting the Newspapers picked up the story and the struggling group suddenly had engagements all around the world.

In 1872, a songbook entitled: Jubilee Songs:Complete. As sung by the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, was published by Biglow & Main. This songbook introduced the “Negro Spiritual” to America. One of the favorite songs in the book was, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Fisk University continues to educate students today in Nashville, Tennessee, and The Jubilee Singers travel around the world singing the “Negro spiritual.” The lyrics of the song call for a heavenly chariot accompanied by a band of angels to come down low and pick up the singer and take them home to heaven. | CLICK HERE to hear the Jubilee Singers singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot in 1909 |

Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home,
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.
I looked over Jordan, and what did I see
Coming for to carry me home?
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.
Sometimes I’m up, and sometimes I’m down,
(Coming for to carry me home)
But still my soul feels heavenly bound.
(Coming for to carry me home)
The brightest day that I can say,
(Coming for to carry me home)
When Jesus washed my sins away.
(Coming for to carry me home)
If I get there before you do,
(Coming for to carry me home)
I’ll cut a hole and pull you through.
(Coming for to carry me home)
If you get there before I do,
(Coming for to carry me home)
Tell all my friends I’m coming too.
(Coming for to carry me home)

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