“Go Down Moses” sung by Paul Robeson, lyrics by The Contrabands, 1862.
The song is thought to have been composed in 1862 by The Contrabands, but it existed as a “negro spiritual” most likely longer than that. Robeson’s deep bass is often heard when we think of Moses’s imperative to Pharaoh. The lyrics summarize the liberation, the first section of the book. The African slave narrative meshes here with the Biblical plight and makes Exodus an extremely relevant text: who are the slaves now? Who are the masters?