Nursery Rhymes

Down to the River to Pray

Down to the River to Pray Lyrics

The words and lyrics of this African American Spiritual begin with "As I went down to the river to pray" as the first line of the song. The words, tune and lyrics of the "Down to the River to Pray" song were passed on verbally and the names of the author and composer are therefore unknown.

Down to the River to Pray Song Meaning and History
The history of the "Down to the River to Pray" song lyrics date back to the Slave Plantations in the 1800's and the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861 - 1865). Meaning: The song was sung by slaves as a secret coded reference to escaping the bonds of slavery. The 'river' in the lyrics is a veiled message about the Ohio River which was compared by slaves to the "River Jordan" that was the dividing line between slavery in the slave states and freedom in the non-slave states. The "starry crown" represented navigating escape routes by the stars. The question in the lyrics "who shall wear the Robe and crown?" reflected the burning question of the outcome of the Civil War and whether their would be freedom for all - sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers and sinners. We have placed "Down to the River to Pray" in the category of African American Spirituals, aka Negro Spirituals and Slave Songs.

Down to the River to Pray Song
Title: Down to the River to Pray *** Name of Composer: Unknown *** Name Author / Writer of Lyrics: Unknown *** Category: Slave Songs aka African American Spirituals or Negro Spirituals

Down to the River to Pray Lyrics

As I went down to the river to pray
Studyin about that good ol' way
and who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord show me the way!

O sisters let's go down
Lets go down, Come on down
O sisters lets go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studyin about that good ol way
And who shall wear the robe & crown
Good Lord show me the way

O brothers lets go down
Let's go down, Come on down
O brothers lets go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studyin about that good ol way
And who shall wear the star and crown?
Good lord show me the way

O fathers lets go down
Let's go down, Come on down
O fathers lets go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray studying about that good ol way
And who shall wear th robe and crown
Good Lord show me the way

O mothers lets go down
Come on down, don't you wanna go down?
O Mothers lets go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studin about that good ol' way
And who shall wear the star and crown?
Good Lord show me the way

O sinners lets go down
Lets go down, come on down
O sinners lets go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studyin about that good ol way
And who shall wear the Robe and crown?
Good Lord show me the way

Information about the Song
Title of Song: Down to the River to Pray
Author of Lyrics: Unknown
Nationality of Author: African American
Name of Music Composer: Unknown
Song Category: Slave Songs aka African American Spirituals or Negro Spirituals
First Line of Song: "As I went down to the river to pray"
First Publication Date: 1867. The lyrics of the song were first published in 'Slave Songs of the United States'.

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