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"Rise Up Shepherd and Follow," was likely written by slaves living on the islands of coastal South Carolina. It’s said to have first been published in a book called "Slave Songs of the United States," the earliest known work to portray African American music as a serious genre, instead of the stereo-typical minstrelsy of the nineteenth century.  


But, “Rise Up Shepherd and Follow,”  can’t be found in the collection of a hundred and thirty-six spirituals, that make up “Slave Songs of the United States.” 

And, it's amazing that the book - written during the American Civil War - exists at all. Southern plantation owners wanted no part of a developing black culture in America. 

But, when the Union Army captured the town of Port Royal South Carolina in 1861, the white plantation owners ran for the hills, leaving behind ten thousand suddenly free slaves.  

Almost immediately, abolitionist charities in the north, began sending farm managers, doctors, ministers and educators to the region.   William F. Allen, a classical scholar and musician, set up a school on the sea islands of South Carolina, with his wife Mary.

Charles P. Ware, a civilian superintendent of labor, arrived to advise the now free black men and women on successfully managing, and living, on the abandoned plantations.

And Ware’s cousin, Lucy McKim Garrison, whose grandfather had run a stop on the Underground Railroad, was present as secretary for her father, the abolitionist James McKim. 

Though she was only at Port Royal for a few weeks, Lucy Garrison was moved by the songs she heard the former slaves singing, and began writing them down. After returning home, she combined the songs she’d collected with those of her cousin, Charles Ware. Finally, William Allen joined the project, adding scholarly experience documenting folk songs.


And together they compiled “Slave Songs of The United States.” But, where was “Rise Up Shepherd and Follow?” Well we know the song existed by 1891, when the lyric was used in a “Lippincott’s Magazine” short story called “Christmas Gifts.”

The text was set to music for the first time by Kate Douglas Wiggin, in her 1893 song book, “Nine Love Songs and A Carol.” 

When we consider that blues, jazz, R&B, Rock & Hip Hop all sprang from early black music, songs like “Rise Up Shepherd and Follow,” and those collected in “Slave Songs of the United States,” are the foundation of present day American music and culture.

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