This Labor Day, we take note of the ways in which “work songs” became a part of Gullah Geechee musical culture. Enslaved Africans sang songs as they worked to help keep the pace of the task they were doing. A leader called out a verse or yell and others responded. This is the call-and-response singing tradition from Africa that became a part of life on the plantation. After Emancipation, work songs persisted in the culture. One of the most famous “Sink Em Low” was recorded by Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers. It references the sound of men driving rail spikes — a familiar occupation. And it also alludes to the ways in which workers were often exploited, racial mistreatment in the South and the prolonged periods of time many Gullah Geechee men and women spent away from home as they travelled to find work.
Link to Video
The Georgia Sea Island Singers were from the Harrington community on St. Simons Island and you can visit the Historical Harrington School to learn more about the community.
Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission
September 11, 2020 ·