Music and the Underground Railroad: Harmonica and Washboard

Underground Railroad


In Africa, people often used coded language in music. This tradition continued in communities of African descent in the United States. This coded language in music provided people with an outlet to discuss topics of social justice, political philosophy, or even express emotions that would otherwise be frowned upon by enslavers and people who sympathized with the institution of slavery. In this video, musician Bruce Barnes sings the song "Run Mary Run (You've Got the Right to the Tree of Life)."


4 minutes, 12 seconds


NPS Video

Copyright and Usage Info