Archie Shepp: The great champion of transmission

1960s: Days of Rage

Archie Shepp and Jason Moran

Let My People Go: a truly symbolic title… It is the refrain from the most famous Negro spiritual, ‘Go Down Moses’, dating from the days of slavery, and in 1853 it was the first one to be edited as sheet music, ten years before Abolition in the United States. Massively evangelized in the 19th century, the African slaves quickly identified with the Hebrews who, according to the biblical legends they were taught, had rebelled thanks to their faith and had fled from Egypt where they had been enslaved. Other ancient spirituals are more like laments, such as ‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child’ (another song on the album), but in a condition of servitude a lament is not far from a revolt. These two songs became world-famous in the 1920’s, thanks to the great singer/actor Paul Robeson, a champion of the civil…

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